Renfroe has potential to be mainstay in right field
Former first-round Draft pick has power, outstanding coordination
In each of his four years playing baseball at Copiah Academy in Gallman, Miss., Hunter Renfroe hit at least .400. An outstanding athlete, he also played basketball, football and ran track. Versatile and talented, Renfroe was used as a catcher, a pitcher and as an outfielder.
The Boston Red Sox selected Renfroe in the 31st round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of high school. Instead of signing with the Red Sox, he attended Mississippi State University, where he helped lead the team to the 2013 College World Series finals.
Renfroe had a great blend of trophy-winning regular-season play and stellar summer performances leading to the 2013 Draft. After playing several positions in his freshman season at Mississippi State, he became a highly regarded outfielder capable of playing all three outfield positions.
The San Diego Padres selected Renfroe with their first-round pick -- No. 13 overall -- in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He is No. 4 on San Diego's Top 20 Prospect list.
In his two seasons in the Padres' Minor League system, Renfroe has gone from Short-Season Eugene in his first year to Double-A San Antonio this past season. He earned his promotion to San Antonio following 69 games and 316 plate appearances by hitting .295 with 21 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs and 52 RBIs at Lake Elsinore in the Class A Advanced California League.
In mid-June 2014, Renfroe was promoted to Double-A, where he hit .232 with another five homers for a total of 21 for the season. He also stole 11 bases in 15 attempts.
After first seeing him in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game, I've been watching Renfroe play in the Arizona Fall League. He was named to the league's West Division Fall Stars as a member of the Surprise Saguaros, and he hit a loud home run as a pinch-hitter in the game.
Renfroe packs a great deal of strength and raw power into his deceiving 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame. He looks bigger, but he plays with agility and fluidity that highlight his outstanding athletic coordination. Renfroe sustained a hand injury around the time of the Futures Game, but he looks very healthy and fully recovered in his at-bats in Arizona.
A right-handed hitter, Renfroe fits a typical right-field prototype. He has an outstanding and accurate arm to accompany his loud bat. There are times however, when Renfroe's desire to launch the ball to the seats causes him to extend his swing. He is still only 22, and I believe he will moderate that tendency and keep to a more measured approach at the plate.
Renfroe has good bat speed, and he can loft the ball or hit line drives to the gaps. Without question, his power is his best tool. Renfroe has the type of game-changing potential that offers middle-of-the-batting-order long-ball upside. Once he drives more balls on the line as opposed to hitting them high in the air, his home run numbers will increase markedly. I see that coming.
Renfroe is not unlike many young players who must work on recognizing breaking balls. Feasting on fastballs, he can get fooled at times with sharp sliders and even less advanced curveballs. Renfroe will amass his share of strikeouts, as his 134 whiffs this past season illustrate.
While some improvement is needed in pitch recognition, I have been impressed that Renfroe has enough patience at the plate to draw his share of walks. He has shown that skill throughout his brief career, and it is materializing again in the Fall League.
Renfroe runs well enough to take an extra base on occasion and steal a base when needed. His baseball instincts are sharp and he knows how the game should be played.
Defensively, I think Renfroe has similar tools to Padres outfielder Rymer Liriano. They both are strong, recognize the ball off the bat well, have good lateral movement and have solid throwing arms. While Liriano has advanced to the big leagues following elbow surgery, it will be interesting to see how San Diego deploys both of these potential power hitters in the future. Both are capable of playing right field.