30 Players: Hunter Renfroe Joins Promising Young Padres Outfield

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day. 

2016 season (Minors): 133 G, 533 AB, .306 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 5 SB, .893 OPS

2016 season (Majors): 11 G, 35 AB, .371 BA, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 0 SB, 1.189 OPS

In the winter before the 2015 season, the San Diego Padres made a bunch of big name moves and seemed to be all in for a deep run to the postseason. That season, however, was a complete bust. Just two years later, the team finds itself in the middle of a complete rebuild.

With just Wil Myers the one big name remaining from that ‘14 shakeup, the Padres enter this season featuring the second youngest team in baseball with an average age of 26.7. That youth is especially evident in their starting outfield. Starting left fielder Travis Jankowski is the elder statesman entering his sophomore season at 25 years old. To his left is 22-year-old center fielder and top prospect Manuel Margot, who won the job this spring because of his incredible speed and begins the year at the top of the lineup. In right will be Hunter Renfroe, another 25-year-old who is a former first round pick and current top prospect who many are excited about.

Drafted No. 13 overall by the Padres in the ‘13 draft, Renfroe wasted no time showing off his power and ability in the Minor Leagues. In 2014 he clubbed 21 homers and 33 doubles with a .267/.342/.470 line for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. After another strong season in ‘15, Renfroe spent the majority of last year at Triple-A El Paso. He tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in home runs and was second in RBIs and slugging percentage. After the Triple-A season ended, Renfroe got a late callup to the Padres near the end of September. Though brief, Renfroe made a major impact in his MLB debut that left many wondering what he could have done over an entire year in the bigs.

Renfroe’s power is undeniable. His .251 ISO (isolated power) last year would have ranked in the top 20 in the Majors, right beside sluggers like Yoenis Cespedes (.251) and Anthony Rizzo (.252). It’s also not fair to call him an all-or-nothing hitter, considering he hit .281 in four Minor League seasons. While it may sound like he’s ready to mash 30 homers in the bigs this year, there are still a few issues Renfroe will need to address.

Renfroe has somehow managed to keep his average and on-base percentage up despite drawing very few walks. His 22 base on balls last season was the lowest of anyone who played at least 120 games in the PCL. This wasn’t a new trend either — Renfroe also walked only 37 times in 558 plate appearances the previous year. Couple this with the fact that he strikes out a ton, and it’s no wonder why some are skeptical Renfroe will keep his average up above .250 in a full season in the Majors.

Depth Charts, Steamer, and ZiPS projections all have Renfroe hitting more than 20 home runs in anywhere from 130-140 games while hitting under .250 with an OBP under .290. The power will be there for Renfroe, but it will be interesting to see whether he can manage to keep up the high batting average and OBP he’s produced at every level in the past, or if he’ll fall in line with the projections.

Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo

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