San Diego Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe has made improvements across the board.
The 2018 season was a test for the San Diego Padres and every single player on the major league roster. With the pressure ramped up a bit and a future role with the organization on the line, many players stepped up. Franmil Reyes is currently passing his test with flying colors, while the results from players like Christian Villanueva and Austin Hedges needed to be further evaluated. We will dive into both of those players later, however, the one man who is currently leading his class is outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
One of the more frustrating storylines from the early part of the season was the lack of playing time for Renfroe. While the results may not have been there this year, the Padres do have a very large group of outfielders with gigantic ceilings (Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Franmil Reyes) and Travis Jankowski who has the ability to be a game-changer, especially late in contests. Don’t forget, Wil Myers was also in the outfield to begin the year.
It was still a head-scratcher as to why a recent first-round pick with an elite power tool found it so difficult to get at-bats. Well, all of that changed in the second half of the season and things are looking up for the former Mississippi State Bulldog.
Renfroe’s progression across the board.
There are still nine games left on the Padres’ schedule but let’s take a look at the progress Renfroe has made at the plate this season.
By looking at these basic statistics, you see one of the biggest jumps Renfroe has made in 2018. Simply put, he’s hitting the ball more, raising his batting average by 18 points. Odds are if he was able to rack up 77 more at-bats this year, he would surpass his home run and doubles total, as well. Good things happen you find the barrel more (up 1.4%) and hit the ball harder (2.2 mph harder) and higher (3.6-degree increase in average launch angle).
Let’s look at some more numbers that Hunter Renfroe improved on.
Clearly, there’s plenty that Renfroe can work on, like that .299 on-base percentage. It’s still a 15 point increase, due in large part to his lower chase rate and a slight uptick in walks. He has become more selective with his pitches, doing a much better job at making contact against fastballs and breaking pitches. However, offspeed pitches are another story.
Opposing pitchers made one slight adjustment against Renfroe, they started throwing more offspeed pitches to him. It’s not much more, just 2.2% more, but Renfroe has been unable to hit the offspeed pitch. He’s recorded just nine hits (four of them home runs) against offspeed pitches, hitting .184, a 171 point drop compared to his 2017 success rate (.355 average). But when we consider the season the San Diego Padres have had and all the improvements Renfroe has made in other aspects of his game, this isn’t a major red flag, but something to keep an eye on in 2019.
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There have also been improvements in the field.
Just like his numbers at the plate, there is plenty of room for improvement, however, there’s a lot to like about the growth. Renfroe has logged six Defensive Runs Saved, splitting time between left and right field. That’s five additional runs saved compared to 2017. His UZR has also greatly increased from -5.6 to -1.8.
Thanks to Baseball Savant’s new Directional Outs Above Average leaderboard, we can see that when Renfroe has to go back on a ball, he struggles. He’s at -3 Outs Above Average when retreating to make an out. When he has to charge a ball, he’s much more successful, recording +3 Outs Above Average, just one fewer than Travis Jankowski.
The biggest question is whether or not Hunter Renfroe has a roster spot with the San Diego Padres in 2019. It’s obvious that at least one move, if not two, will have to be made to help clear the logjam. If there’s one outfielder who should be safe, it’s Hunter Renfroe. Unleash the man for a full season and let’s see exactly what he’s capable of.