Though the rookie of the year conversation is far from really beginning, the San Diego Padres have a gem in right-fielder Hunter Renfroe who will be in it without a doubt.
Right fielder Hunter Renfroe made quite an impression after his late season call-up to the Padres last year. He launched four home runs in just 11 games, the most impressive landing on top of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.
Country strong indeed, Renfroe has been mentioned in more than one conversation as a potential National League Rookie of the Year candidate. Also identified as potential candidates by various prognosticators are fellow Padre, CF Manuel Margot; C Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies; SS J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies; 1B Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates, with SS Dansby Swanson, of the Atlanta Braves, being the front-runner on most lists.
In spring training this year Renfroe has batted .286 with a .314 OBP, having hit four doubles and two home runs. He also has 10 strikeouts. Obviously, he needs to cut down on the latter and get on base more frequently. In Triple-A in 2016 he had an average strike out rate but a very low 3.9 BB%, an awful result according to FanGraphs.
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Suited to right field, Renfroe has a plus arm. He’s not a burner, but he’s also not a lumbering big guy. Opposing players will push their luck trying to take extra bases on his arm. Because Renfroe played catcher until his sophomore year in college, right field still presents a challenge especially in terms of reading the ball and setting up to throw.
In the opinion of John Sickels of SB Nation: “If someone from the future told me that Renfroe made some slight adjustments and turned into a consistent .280+ hitter with 30 homers a year, I would believe them. If they told me that he never got a firm grasp on the strike zone and futzed around for years in the .230s, bouncing from team to team, hitting some homers but never getting firmly established, I’d believe that too.”
With Renfroe acknowledged as the starting right fielder for 2017 and a dearth of high-level prospects in the minors at that position, he will have the opportunity to fulfill his Rookie-of-the-Year promise or settle into a career as a decent right fielder with a strong arm and impressive power.