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Nationals roster review: Anthony Rendon

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Nationals roster review: Anthony Rendon

Age on Opening Day 2016: 25

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2011 draft

MLB service time: 2 year, 130 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $2.5 million

Contract status: Possibly Super-2 arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2020.

2015 stats: 80 G, 355 PA, 43 R, 82 H, 16 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB, 36 BB, 70 SO, .264 AVG, .344 OBP, .363 SLG, .707 OPS, 4 E, 3.6 UZR (at 3B), -1.8 UZR (at 2B), 0.3 WAR

Quotable: "Anthony will be good. It's just a question of a few days." — Matt Williams, March 13, on Anthony Rendon's knee injury. Rendon didn't make his season debut until June 4.

2015 analysis: On the heels of a breakthrough season that saw him finish fifth in NL MVP voting, expectations were sky-high for Rendon. Then a seemingly innocuous knee injury suffered in spring training completely derailed him for 2015. What eventually was diagnosed as a sprained MCL sidelined Rendon until early June (an oblique strain suffered during his rehab assignment helped delay his return) and then only three weeks later he landed back on the DL with a quadriceps strain.

Rendon never did find a consistent groove, vacillating between a hot couple of weeks and then a slump. He was hitting .289 on September 16 but then went 9 for his last 58 to see his season-ending numbers slide a considerable amount.

Rendon's year didn't go according to plan in more ways than one. After bouncing between second and third bases in 2014, he figured to settle in as the everyday third baseman in 2015. But his spring training injury prompted the Nationals to move Yunel Escobar to the hot corner, and by the time Rendon was healthy the club didn't want to make another change. So he wound up starting 59 games at second base, only 19 at third base.

2016 outlook: The rose has come off the bloom somewhat after this disappointing season, but there's still no denying Rendon's ability to be one of the best all-around players in baseball. But he'll need to avoid the nagging injuries that prevented him from finding any level of consistency this year.

The Nationals acknowledged Rendon should be their regular third baseman in 2016, so that move should be permanent. It also should be beneficial to both the individual and the team. Rendon is far better defensively at third base than second base, and perhaps the mere knowledge he'll be able to stay at his natural position will allow him to focus more on his offensive performance.

The Nats' new manager also would be wise not to use Rendon out of the leadoff spot. Matt Williams didn't have much choice late this season, but Rendon's skills just don't translate all that well to the No. 1 spot in the lineup. A full season batting second seems to be best for him and the Nationals.

One other thing to watch this winter: Rendon's contract status. Though he has fewer than three years of big-league service time, he may have accrued just enough to qualify for arbitration as a "Super-2" player. (MLBtraderumors.com projects the Super-2 cutoff to be at 2 years, 130 days, which is exactly where Rendon currently stands.) If he qualifies, Rendon could see his salary spike, though regardless he still won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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USA Today Sports Images

Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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