When the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched the worst record in the majors in 2010, the silver lining was that they received the number one pick in the 2011 draft, and the chance to select Anthony Rendon. Rendon isn’t in the same situation as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, where he’s light years ahead of everyone else in the draft, although that’s mostly due to the talent that follows him in the 2011 draft pool. That said, Rendon is the consensus number one talent in the draft, gaining comparisons to major league third baseman like Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. Jim Callis of Baseball America has said several times that if they were in the same draft, he would have taken Rendon over Harper, to give a further idea of Rendon’s talent level.
Despite the hype around Rendon, there has been a red flag. Rendon suffered a serious ankle injury this summer while playing for Team USA, and has been recovering in a boot for the last five months. This is the second major ankle injury of Rendon’s career. The good news is that Rendon has been fully cleared from the injury, which is completely healed. He has been taking swings in the batting cage since early November, but now he can put on cleats, run the bases, and cut on the ankle.
Rendon tore ligaments in the same ankle last summer, but still managed to return and put up a monster year in 2010. He won the Dick Howser trophy, awarded to the top player in college baseball, and is a favorite to win the award again this season. If Rendon is anywhere close to healthy, which it sounds like he is, then he should be the number one pick for the Pirates. The Pirates haven’t shied away from taking a consensus top talent, drafting Pedro Alvarez in 2008, and drafting Jameson Taillon in 2010. Matt Purke and Garret Cole, two potential top of the rotation pitchers, could challenge for the number one spot, although the Pirates definitely seem to prefer college hitters when they’re available (Alvarez in 2008, Tony Sanchez in 2009), which makes Rendon the early favorite for their pick.