With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking down the team position-by-position. Today, we preview San Diego's right fielders.• Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CFSAN DIEGO -- Nobody ever doubted Hunter
With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking down the team position-by-position. Today, we preview San Diego's right fielders.
• Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF
SAN DIEGO -- Nobody ever doubted Hunter Renfroe's prodigious power. Nobody ever doubted his ridiculous arm strength, either.
Both were on full display during his rookie campaign in 2017. Renfroe's mammoth homers and 100 mph missiles from the outfield were nothing short of jaw-dropping. On certain nights -- like his three-homer barrage against Arizona in September -- Renfroe, alone, was worth the price of admission.
Thing is, Renfroe also entered the season with serious question marks about his plate discipline and his ability to hit right-handed pitching. He didn't exactly answer those. He struggled defensively, as well, and got a bit careless with his throws sometimes.
All that considered, it's worth asking what, exactly, we learned about Renfroe in 2017? Sure, he set a franchise rookie record with 26 homers and finished tied for the National League lead with nine assists in right field. But he had power and a cannon before the Padres selected him in the first round of the '13 Draft.
Entering 2018, Renfroe has many of the same question marks that he had surrounding his debut. He needs to improve his .284 OBP. And he needs to do better than his .202/.244/.393 slash line against right-handed pitching.
To be fair, it was the first year for Renfroe, who has seemingly embraced the challenges presented by the club. He's first in line for right field in 2018, with a chance to correct those shortcomings. (That is, of course, unless the Padres make a late splash in free agency and sign first baseman Eric Hosmer, who would push William Myers into the outfield.)
"I knew it was going to be hard," Renfroe said at the end of the 2017 season. "I knew the pitchers were going to adjust. And they did. And I've tried to adjust to them as well. This was my first season. The adjustments need to come a little quicker sometimes, but I just need to get better."
Perhaps Renfroe will benefit from the addition of new hitting coach Matt Stairs. The Padres have made no secret that Stairs' primary job is to buoy the team's on-base percentage.
Renfroe is also working on bettering his at-bats against right-handed pitching this offseason. He's done light hitting exercises against extreme angles from the right side.
For now, Renfroe is penciled into the right-field job. But should he continue to struggle in those areas, it's not hard to envision his playing time waning.
A healthy Alex Dickerson could force a three-way battle for two corner outfield spots, along with Renfroe and Jose Pirela. (The club is cautiously optimistic that Dickerson has fully recovered from back surgery last year.)
If Dickerson's back barks again, the Padres could opt to carry four outfielders -- Pirela, Renfroe, Manuel Margot and one of three backup center-field options. It's also possible they pluck two of those center-field options from among Matthew Szczur, Travis Jankowski and Franchy Cordero.
All three will make their case for playing time during Spring Training. Ultimately, however, Renfroe will get the first shot in right field.
He'll have plenty left to prove.
Projected starter: Renfroe
Potential backups: Szczur, Jankowski, Cordero, Dickerson, Pirela
Top-30 prospects: No. 11 Jorge Ona, No. 12 Cordero, No. 17 Jeisson Rosario, No. 21 Michael Gettys, No. 22 Mason House, No. 24 Edward Olivares
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.