Rendon puts on show at tournament
Rice University junior wows scouts at Houston College Classic
HOUSTON -- Rice University junior Anthony Rendon had Major League scouts salivating over the weekend at Minute Maid Park, even with one of the best elements of his game not on display.
Rendon, who usually mans third base for Rice and is considered by many scouts as a candidate to go No. 1 overall in June's First-Year Player Draft, served as the Owls' designated hitter while nursing a pulled muscle in his right throwing shoulder.
But that didn't stop him from leading nationally ranked Rice to a 2-1 weekend in a star-studded field at the Houston College Classic, further boosting his Major League Baseball stock in front of the 100 to 125 Major League scouts estimated to be in attendance.
"Rendon, in my opinion, can play and help a Major League team right now," one MLB scout said.
"He is a professional hitter with Gold Glove potential."
The pulled muscle isn't believed to be serious, with Rendon expecting to return to the field within the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, he's proving capable of handling the bat quite well.
In Friday night's 8-7 win over the University of Kentucky, Rendon sparked the Owls with a 3-for-5 night at the plate, including a double.
Then on Saturday, Rendon drew a pair of hit-by-pitches against fellow state power Texas A&M, one of which set the table for the lone run in a 1-0 pitchers' duel.
Finally, in Sunday's weekend finale against nationally ranked Baylor, Rendon homered while going 2-for-4. He also walked twice, as the Bears opted not to pitch to Rendon with runners in scoring position in both the sixth and eighth innings.
"It's a great experience just to be out here," Rendon said of the weekend at Minute Maid Park. "You always know you'll have a lot of scouts and a lot of fans, especially with big games involving bigger schools."
His strong results are no surprise. Rendon won most college baseball player of the year awards in 2010 with a season considered by many among the best ever, including a .394 average, .530 on-base percentage and .801 slugging percentage.
His 26 homers for the season were second-most in Rice history to Lance Berkman, a former first-round MLB choice himself.
"Anthony is, as my dad used to say, 'poetry in motion,'" said Rice head coach Wayne Graham. "I've seen him hit line drives in batting practice that were moving like golf balls. He was a leader from day one when he came to campus."
Rendon grew up in Houston, where he could hit rocks with a stick by the time he was 3 years old and played organized baseball at 5.
He was a 5A all-state shortstop in high school, and was drafted in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Rendon considered making the jump, but felt his game could develop most while working with Graham and perennial power Rice, which has qualified for the College World Series seven times since 1997.
The strategy seems to be working. Despite a pair of ankle injuries in offseason training in 2009 and 2010, his collegiate body of work has seemingly secured his status as a high first-round selection come June.
"My ankle is feeling great," Rendon said. "I know I've had problems in the past, and I'm focused on keeping it healthy through the season. I'm just trying to get my speed back. I've heard a couple people say I look faster -- so far, so good."
For now, Rendon says the Major League dreams aren't at the forefront of his mind.
Instead, it's about improving his own game and his hopes of bringing the Owls back to the College World Series for the first time since 2008.
"Of course I'm going to hear things about it, read stuff about it," Rendon said. "People come up to me and tell me these things.
"But for me, I just have to take it one step at a time. I'm not even at the pro level yet. If it does happen, great, but I'm here at Rice right now and we're trying to get to Omaha.
"I have a lot of unfinished business."
Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.