Nationals select Rendon with sixth overall pick

For the second straight year, the Nationals selected a hitter with their first pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. On Monday night, they selected third baseman Anthony Rendon of Rice University with the sixth pick.

The question is what position will he play, since the Nationals already have a third baseman for years to come in Ryan Zimmerman. There is a strong possibility that Rendon could be switched to second or first base, but the Nationals have not determined their plans.

The Nationals feel Rendon is on the fast track to the big leagues.

“Right now, we feel that third base is his position,” general manager Mike Rizzo said about Rendon. “We evaluate him as a Gold Glove-caliber defensive guy at third base. We are going to delay that decision [as far as making a position switch]. We’ll make that decision down the road.

“I think he is a terrifically polished college player. I think he will be a quick-to-the-big-leagues type of guy, as far as the normal course of a drafted player. But we are not going to put any stipulations or timetables like that. We really feel good about this player. This is a guy that we had at the top of our draft board for a long time. We feel good with who we selected.”

It’s obvious that the Nationals were not turned off by Rendon’s history with injuries. He had shoulder and ankle problems in the past.

“We got all the medical reports and films, our doctors have gone over them painstakingly, and we feel good about it,” Rizzo said.

Injuries didn’t appear to slow Rendon’s season in 2011. In 63 games, he hit .327 with six home runs, 27 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .520 for Rice.

“He has a terrific batting eye. He has great pitch recognition, a tough guy to strike out,” Rizzo said. “He uses the whole field. He is very balanced. He has great raw power.

Along with the line-drive stroke, we feel he is a very efficient hitter and capable of hitting for a high average and for power.”

This year marked the first time since 2008 that the Nationals didn’t have the first overall pick in the Draft. The previous two Drafts, the Nationals selected right-hander Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper with the top overall picks, in 2009 and last year, respectively. Rizzo said it wasn’t hard having five teams pick ahead of them this year.

“We lined up our six best players in the order that we thought we liked them,” Rizzo said. “We were really satisfied with the top six players. We knew we were going to get a good player in the Draft, and when it was our turn to pick, we had Anthony’s name at the top of our list and we pulled it and we feel good about it.”

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at noon ET Tuesday on, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

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