In 2013, the San Diego Padres drafted Hunter Renfroe in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft from Mississippi State University. There was a lot of buzz surrounding this pick because the fan base saw him as a centerpiece to a potential rebuild.
Fast forward to 2018 and that same buzz seems to have deteriorated. In his first full year in the big leagues, Renfroe hit .231 with an on-base percentage below .300 and the lowest OPS in his professional career. Aside from his occasional power, Renfroe had an abysmal first year.
Even more of an eye-sore statistic was his BB/SO ratio, in which he walked a whopping 27 times compared to 140 strikeouts. To put this into perspective, Renfroe had one more walk than he did home runs (26) on the year. Certainly not the sort of production you want from your power right fielder.
All of the aforementioned statistics are worrisome and have prompted fans to begin looking for other options come crunch time when the Padres are looking to compete. However, there are reasons for Padres fans to be patient when it comes to the development of Hunter Renfroe. I know patience is something Padres fans are running thin on, but they could prove useful in this case.
First and foremost, Hunter Renfroe has had a mere 480 at-bats at the major league level. He has played one full season in the big leagues. This is way too short of a sample size to forecast the rest of a potential talented hitter’s career.
Given his track record in the minors, Hunter Renfroe can clearly swing the shillelagh. In his final year with the El Paso Chihuahuas, Renfroe hit 30 home runs while batting an impressive .306. His BB/SO ratio was still poor, but he was getting on base a lot more frequently (.336 OBP vs. .284 OBP in 2017).
Further, when glossing over his minor league stats, excluding the quality of pitching, it becomes clear that Renfroe’s first year as a Padre was an outlier. The most notable of drop-offs was his average, which was 30+ points lower than his second-lowest average throughout his minor league career.
Again, I know Padres fans are sick of the word “patience”, but Renfroe is still a talent worth building here in San Diego. Given he was drafted under the old regime, he is likely on a short leash with Preller at the helm. This is already apparent given his demotion towards the end of last year; a surprising, yet necessary, move by management.
In order for Renfroe to be successful in the major leagues, he needs to learn patience at the plate. If his strikeouts continue to be a problem, he will have a really difficult time remaining as a starter and will likely find himself out of a Padres uniform.
If, and it is a big if, Renfroe can find his old self and hit .260+ with 30 home runs and a decent OBP while limiting the strikeouts, the Padres will have a solid piece in right field for years to come. Aside from his offense, Renfroe is also capable of being an above average defender. All the more reason to help build his skills at the dish and the field.
Renfroe has the ability to be a worthy asset for the Padres’ plans moving forward and it would be unfortunate if he found himself on the outside looking in. Hopefully, management sees the potential and does not lose faith in him. He could put it all together by 2020, when it all really matters. Here’s to wishful thinking and a positive year for Hunter Renfroe.