He has been highly touted for a few years now – ever since the Padres drafted Hunter Renfroe 13th overall in the 2013 draft out of Mississippi State. He was straight out of leading his team to the College Baseball World Series Finals and he landed shortly after in…Eugene, Oregon. Now after a few years of minor league seasoning, Hunter Renfroe will spend another Spring Training with the Major League Club with a lot to prove. After all he has been replaced as the number 1 Padres prospect.
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In an interview with the Clarion Ledger, Renfroe talked about what a change it was originally to go from the packed stands in Omaha to the home ballpark of the competitor Oregon Ducks and home of the Low A Eugene Emeralds:
"“It was very different, I’m going to be honest. I went from the College World Series and having 15-plus thousand people in the stands. Then going to Eugene, Oregon where the Oregon Ducks play and having 20 guys in the stands.”"
Now as a current Eugene native I disagree with that assessment completely, but I can understand the contrast. For the second straight year Renfroe gets to hang out with big MLB names like Matt Kemp and this year Matt McGwire joins the club as the hitting coach, a childhood idol of Renfroe’s. How can you not get excited about that?
This year Renfroe does have an outside of making it to the big league club in the outfield. Last year the Padres revamped the entire outfield, bringing in Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin and Melvin Upton Jr.to join all three starters from the previous year and a couple of reserves. Gone now are Justin Upton, Myers is moved to first, Will Venable and Rymer Liriano all out of the way for Renfroe. Jon Jay came in via trade as well as Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash but to say the outfield is a guessing game beyond Kemp isn’t too far from the truth.
Another change is in the minor league system. Renfroe was one of three prospects seen to be untouchable last year, before Matt Wisler did get moved and Austin Hedges was promoted but has failed to exactly tear the cover off the ball and was given more internal competition with the Padres adding Christian Bethancourt. Manuel Margot was added to the Padres minor league system and overtook Renfroe as the Padres number 1 prospect.
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“…this year I’m going there to battle for a position. I’m there to maybe try to make the major league club…I always want to be able to be the best player on the field and win my position that way, so hopefully, I get a shot. If I don’t, I’m going to be there next year.””
We certainly don’t doubt that statement, and after a strong finish to 2015 the Padres are excited to see what Renfroe can do starting the year in AAA. In his 21 games at AAA he hit 6 home runs, over .300 and drove in 24 runs. Was that the start of momentum or late season energy? Will pitchers have adjusted to him or is he ready to hit his way into Petco Park?