Jun 24, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs right fielder Hunter Renfroe (34) throws to first base to get UCLA Bruins right fielder Eric Filia (not pictured) out at first base during the fourth inning in game 1 of the College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Down On The Farm: Who Is Hunter Renfroe?

 

After being drafted in 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Hunter Renfroe‘s stock has grown enormously.  Renfroe opted not to sign and attended Mississippi State University where he hit .294/.386/.487  in 3 seasons. He then reentered the draft last year and jumped 30 rounds and 940 slots becoming the 13th overall pick by the Padres. Since then, he’s done nothing, but shoot his way up through the system.

After signing last season, he made his professional debut at Short Season A ball with the Eugene Emeralds. The second he got there he hit the ground running. He slashed .308/.333/.510 in 25 games with 13 extra base hits out of his 32 hits. Although it was a small sample size, it’s good to see a player in there first taste of professional baseball responding well. It’s easy for someone to get overwhelmed after being thrust in a situation that they’ve never been in before.

After his 25 game stint in Eugene, he moved up to Low A with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. He would get even less time in Fort Wayne with only 18 games, and he was a lot less impressive. He slashed .212/.268/.379. He may not have put up the stats people would have liked to see, but the Padres saw enough to move up the ladder in 2014.

Renfroe would make his 2014 debut at High-A with the Lake Elsinore Storm, and much like his other stops on the road to the big leagues, it was pretty short. It was longer than his first two stints with minor league teams, lasting 69 games with the Storm. In those games he hit .295/.370/.565 with 16 homers and 52 RBI.  Those kind of offensive numbers has to turn heads in the Padres front office, especially with the performance of the big league club.

If he posted those numbers on the Padres, he’d have the best batting average, slugging percentage, RBI, and home runs and he’d be second only to Seth Smith in OBP. Obviously A-ball numbers don’t automatically translate to big league success, but even if he’s half of the hitter he his at A ball in the majors he’d still be a better option then they have there now.

Today, Renfroe finds himself in Double-A with the San Antonio Missions. He’s struggled to adjust so far hitting just .218, but his .308 OBP suggests that he’s shown good patience and a good eye to keep getting himself on base while he’s not hitting as much as he’d like. It’s only been 16 games down there and he’s still shown his power with 3 homers, so the rest of his skill set should start to translate as he gets comfortable there.

So all these numbers look pretty great, but what do the experts think of Renfroe? They’re actually pretty high on him coming into the year. He was ranked 80th by Baseball America and was the Padres 4th best prospect. With the hundreds of minor leaguers out there being the 80th best amongst them isn’t half bad. Also now that players have been called up and he did nothing, but dominate in Lake Elsinore makes me think he’ll be shooting up people’s lists. One reason I can say that with some certainty was the fact hat he was chosen to participate in the Futures Game at the All Star festivities. Not only did he play, but he started and notched himself a hit.

Now that you know Renfroe can hit with the best of them you might be wondering how is his defense? He’s primarily a right fielder, but he has played 7 games in both center field and in left. With 16 outfield assists in his 2 seasons with .956 fielding percentage, he won’t wow you with his defensive skills, but he has the arm to play right field. As long as guy isn’t hurting you on defense and producing the way Renfroe can, his short comings should be a non-issue.

So when can we expect Renfroe to at Petco? With the way he’s risen through the system, he may find himself playing regularly as soon as next year. I highly doubt he’ll find his way on to the Opening Day roster, but as the season progresses offense may be a need that arises like it has this year, he may be looked at as one of the few in house options that they could rely on. There’s also a chance that when the minor league seasons end and MLB rosters expand he might make a brief cameo in the big leagues this September.

Renfroe may have a lot to prove still in the minor leagues, but he has shown that he has the ability to become a big power bat that could sit in the middle of the Padres lineup for several years to come.

In a league that is seeing a huge drop off in power and a team that has struggled to attract great hitters, Renfroe is exactly the kind of guy the Padres need if they want to contend within the next few years.

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