by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Padres’ Hunter Renfroe has made a splash since returning to the Majors, hitting 4 HR in his first three games. Of course those were also his only hits and no one has ever questioned his potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark.
He has continued to be a significantly more productive player against left-handed pitching in the Majors this season:
- LHP – .340/.424/.718
- RHP – .199/.242/.388
He only has 14 games at Triple-A this season, so it’s too small of a sample size to draw any conclusions from. That said he has always shown more potential against southpaws, but even last season at Triple-A he did perform well against righties (.291 with 19 HR in 385 AB). With a week left in the season no one is going to anticipate him being able to do a complete 180, but is there hope?
His struggles against righties this season have been due to strikeouts (33.0%), though we all know he’s not quite as good as his numbers against lefties might indicate (.338 BABIP). Thinking he’s a .340 hitter would be misguided regardless, so let’s ignore the latter for now…
Renfroe posted a 20.4% strikeout rate overall at Triple-A in ’16 and his 15.1% SwStr% this season seems a bit out of place. It’s also surprising that his Whiff% against hard pitches is actually his second worst mark:
- Offspeed – 12.88%
- Hard – 14.97%
- Breaking – 18.36%
There’s obviously swing and miss to his game, though seeing the mark against hard pitches improve wouldn’t be a big surprise. Seeing him put a strikeout rate in the 25-26% range overall is realistic, and that would obviously make a difference.
For the coming week the Padres do have two southpaws on the schedule, and also are set to face Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda (neither of which is going to scare you right now). You could also lump Johnny Cueto into that mix, but there’s a good chance that he doesn’t start that game (final day of the season) and it could be an even easier matchup.
Hitting in the middle of the lineup and given the matchups and upside, Renfroe seems like a good gamble to take.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, CBS Sports