While the overall results haven’t been what fans have expected, San Diego Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe is trending up.
Over the course of the next few days, I want to take a look at a number of “first-wave” players and examine their progression or regression this season. Since the last few weeks of San Diego Padres play have been, disappointing (for lack of a better word), let’s begin by looking at a few positives.
Immediate disclosure, none of these players discussed are where they should be. However, each of the players discussed over the next few days has shown an improvement in a number of key areas, through the course of the 2018 season. This season isn’t about playoff-chasing, it’s about seeing which guys on the current major league roster deserve a roster spot once the Padres are in a position to make the playoffs.
First, let’s take a look into the numbers of Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe has just 165 plate appearance this year, however, he has shown an improvement in a number of important statistical categories.
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The most notable of those improvements, his pitch selection, and patience at the plate. His first-pitch swing percentage has dropped significantly, from 41.7% in his rookie season, to 26.7% this year. With that comes the highest pitches/plate appearance mark to date (3.9) and a huge increase in his walk-rate. Combine those factors with his lowered chase rate (down to 25.9%) and you now have a slugger who reaches base in 33% of his plate appearances, up from 28% last season. After drawing a free pass in 5.6% of plate appearances in 2017, Renfroe is posting a 9.1% rate, as of July 4th.
Renfroe has a current slash line of .252/.327/.463/.790 and has a wRC+ of 117. He’s hitting the ball an average of two miles per hour harder while lowering his flyball rate and greatly increasing his line-drive rate (16% up to just under 24%). With a .317 BABIP, Renfroe isn’t getting lucky, he’s genuinely showing an improvement at the plate.
The defense isn’t there (although his advanced defensive metrics show he’s improved) and his bat still needs work, one of the roadblocks ahead is his lack of playing time. Both his defense and Andy Green’s managerial decisions are articles within themselves, so let’s stick to his bat. It’s improving. While it’s hard to overlook a number of failed opportunities in important situations, the underlying story shows positives.
The key word is improvement, which Renfroe has shown. Now, let’s see if he can increase that production/remain consistent over the course of three full months of playing time.