Nats’ ‘magician’ Rendon ready for another charmed season

Last season, the third baseman put up MVP-style numbers. This year he hopes to do it all again — without the long hair.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —  Anthony Rendon is as solid an all-around baseball player as there is. And turning 28 this year, he is just entering his prime.

Some players may hit for more power than Rendon. However, not too many will hit for a better average or reach base at a higher clip, and it will be even harder to find a better fielder. He is in an elite class.

Last season, Rendon put up MVP-caliber numbers, batting .301 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs. He walked more than he struck out — 84 times to 82. He also cranked out 41 doubles.

If you can’t recall him making an error, it’s because he rarely did — committing just seven while playing nearly 1,300 innings at third base.

Solid offensively and defensively, Rendon finished sixth in National League MVP voting.

He takes an easygoing approach to the plate.

“I try to keep it simple,” he said Wednesday. “You see the ball and you hit the ball. The plate hasn’t changed since baseball’s been played. They still throw it over that white part and I’m trying to hit it when it comes over that white part.”

But in the rare time that his swing needs tweaking?

“I definitely look at video to see if I’m leaking. Why complicate it?”

He doesn’t have to.

New hitting coach Kevin Long admires what the Nationals third baseman is doing.

“Rendon is a magician,” Long said. “He is fun to watch. When he came up to bat, I sat there and marveled at him. He is quiet. His mechanics are flawless. It looks effortless.

“He is in line. He is balanced. He just does a lot of things right.”

What does Rendon attribute to his career year?

“I think I tried to drive the ball more,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I tried a Daniel Murphy launch angle, but I did try to hit it at a certain degree.”

Rendon has made an even bigger change heading into the new year: He got married in the offseason, then cut his long hair.

“It’s at home in a plastic bag. I kept it, don’t worry. I did. I’m going to use it for something later,” he said.

Rendon jokingly added that maybe the new look will garner his first All-Star selection. He just missed the team last year. What will it take in 2018?

“I’m thinking with my new haircut, I’m a professional now. I’m trying to show people to take me more seriously, so maybe I’ll get more All-Star votes. That’s just my own reasoning,” he said.

Sounds reasonable enough. He has done everything else to warrant selection.

Nats Notes: Pitchers are usually ahead of hitters early in Spring Training, and that was the case when Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg took the mound in batting practice. They kept the batters at bay, including must-see battles with Bryce Harper.

After he passed his physical, the Nationals officially announced the signing of reliever Joaquin Benoit. He said it’s nice to be on a team with a chance to go to the playoffs and contribute. After just two days on the field in West Palm Beach, Benoit seems to have made an immediate connection with a lot of players.

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