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The big draft drop: Rice star Anthony Rendon free falls to Washington Nationalsat No. 6 pick
So much for the script. So much for Anthony Rendon's future as a Seattle Mariner. So much for the Rice star being a lock to be a top three pick. So much for the Rendon camp's insistence that his injured shoulder is not a concern.
With all the baseball analysts expecting the Mariners to take Rice's star third baseman with the No. 2 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Seattle went with a pitcher from Virginia instead. Then, the Arizona Diamondbacks took another UCLA pitcher with the third overall pick. At No. 4, the Baltimore Orioles passed on Rendon in favor of a high school pitcher.
Picking fifth, the Kansas City Royals went with local star Bubba Starling to cheers, rather than Rendon.
Rendon — projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for almost a year — instead fell all the way to the Washington Nationals at No. 6.
It was an unexpected turn, an evening of unexpected drama, for the player who's long been tabbed as the next baseball superstar to come out of H-Town. Monday also happened to be Rendon's 21st birthday.
Talk about your quick transitions into adulthood.
On Sunday night, Rendon was still trying to get Rice into a Super Regional. One day later, he's the story of the MLB Draft, just not in the way he or his high-powered super agent "advisor" Scott Boras anticipated.
Rendon watched the MLB Draft at Rice in a seat, flanked by his parents and a room filled with well wishers. If there was any disappointment on his part, he didn't show it. Instead Rendon handled his draft drop with the same cool he's always shown fielding hard shots at third base.
"I'm feeling great," Rendon said in his live official MLB TV interview. "There's no problem with me right now."
Rendon joins a Washington organization stocked with star young talent, including phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft.
The suspense in this draft was supposed to center on whether the Mariners would pull the trigger on Rendon or if he'd drop another spot. The Pittsburgh Pirates targeted UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole relatively early with the No. 1 pick and by Sunday, any, last bit of doubt about Cole being No. 1 was removed. With a fastball that routinely hits 95-96 MPH on the radar gun, one that's been clocked as high as 102 MPH, Cole's power sent him rocketing past Rendon.
After he won the national player of the year honors in 2010 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI, Rendon was thought to be a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick.
But a frustrating junior season (it ended on Sunday night with the third baseman finishing with only six home runs and 37 RBI), along with concerns about the shoulder strain that can be blamed for a big part of that power drop, pushed Rendon down the board.
While the Pirates are the perennial laughingstocks of MLB, heading toward their record 19th straight losing season this summer, Seattle carries a well-deserved reputation for developing young talent. This is the organization that produced Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. — and more recently, Felix Hernandez, last year's American League Cy Young winner. The Mariners also Dustin Ackley — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft who's expected to be the team's longtime second baseman once he's called up to the big leagues.
Rendon seemed to fit in perfectly with Seattle.
With Ackley and Rendon in the organization, the Mariners could have had a large chunk of their infield set for years. But they passed on him. As did the Diamondbacks. And the Orioles. And the Royals.
It's been quite a heady, if steady, climb for Rendon. His baseball career began when he didn't even think of its as a career, when he was a 3-year-old hitting pine cones with sticks in his parent's backyard. All these years later, Rendon still has a pretty big stick.
But questions on whether the full power of that bat will return — and just how hurt his shoulder is — sent Rendon dropping in this draft.
Rendon was born in Houston, learned to hit a baseball here and went on to play his college ball in the city for Rice University. But now, he'll be taking his talents to the D.C.
Along with plenty of unexpected questions.