San Diego Padres prospect Hunter Renfroe led just about every hitting category when he was playing for the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas last season. A hitter to be feared, he also held the eighth-best batting average (.306) in 133 games.
The right-fielder has the potential to be in Rookie of the Year talks, but that’s where it stops. It’s just talking at this moment in time. Nevertheless, this next season for him could be the beginning of something great for the 24-year-old.
Renfroe dropped on multiple prospect rating lists in 2016. MLB.com had him listed as the No. 48 overall prospect in 2015. He then fell to the No. 92 spot last season. Across the industry, it seemed redundant in the drop, but that typically happens when new guys are introduced to different levels of the sport.
Even with the fall to the multiple lists, the first-rounder of the 2013 Amateur Draft was voted to the MiLB Organization All-Star team, Baseball America’s Triple-A All-Stars, and named MVP of the 2016 season.
How does this translate to 2017?
Last year, Renfroe played in 11 games with the big-league club, and he did very well. He slashed a .371/.389/.800 with four bombs and 13 hits. This was impressive coming from the Pacific Coast League where balls seem to fly. Others who receive the opportunity of a promotion can struggle. (Sorry, Peter O’Brien).
It’s a small sample size, that’s easy to see, but Renfroe has a lot of power. His 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame is full of it, and it’s easy to see the moment he steps up to the plate that when the ball gets hit, it’s going to be hit hard.
He could develop some worry about a competitor in teammate Manuel Margot who was a MiLB top-ten hitter in batting average (.304) last season with the Chihuahuas, just two spots behind Renfroe. Margot also has some exciting power which will only improve with time and he’s an outstanding athlete on any team he plays on.
He’s strong on defense and has the speed that stands out, but at the young age of 22, there is still some improvements needed to be made in order to be in the same category as the top-notch, outfielders. There’s too much hype behind him for me to feel confident in saying he’s a shoe-in replacement over Renfroe who seems to be more mentally ready for the show.
He’s also going to be playing in the same league as Dansby Swanson. Swanson has a defensive factor that could be difficult to argue, and even more difficult for Renfroe in ROY talks. The Braves shortstop also stands out with popularity because of that trade. You know which one I’m talking about.
Don’t get me wrong, the guy can hit, but there’s a long season ahead of him. FanGraphs’ STEAMER doesn’t give him much benefit of the doubt, either. The projection for Renfroe is at a .249/.288/.426 line in an estimated 114 games. A good ball player, absolutely. A National League Rookie of the Year? That’s a bit of a stretch.
He can transition well, which is something to be said especially coming from the hitter’s haven known as the PCL. He can move that bat around well despite a late trigger and his strikeouts continue to be cut throughout the course of his minor league career. Renfroe’s power bat will be the key to a long and successful career, so if he continues making progress in the batter’s box the possibilities are endless.
By Jessica Kleinschmidt