Could Hunter Renfroe Develop Into Khris Davis v2.0?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

A year after hitting 34 HR (30 HR at Triple-A, 4 HR in the Majors), the Padres’ Hunter Renfroe made his presence felt combining to hit another 30 HR (26 HR in the Majors).  You would think that type of power production would make him a must own option, but a .231 average and time spent back at Triple-A clouds the picture.  A strong finish, with 6 HR in September, is going to grab our attention.  Now the question is how do we value him going forward?

The issue is his strikeout rate, with a 29.2% mark courtesy of a 15.0% SwStr%.  There was no one pitch that he swung and missed at extensively, though he also wasn’t particularly strong against any (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 14.81%
  • Breaking – 18.74%
  • Offspeed – 12.14%

It’s a red flag, especially as the strikeouts surged even during his strong September (34.1% strikeout rate), though it’s not the end of the story.  He’s shown a better strikeout rate while at Triple-A, including a 20.4% mark in 533 AB in ’16, so there isn’t concern about the number bloating any further.  In fact, given the Whiff% we’d be willing to expect something closer to the 25% range.

That makes a big difference, especially as he’s shown that his power is for real.  We’d like to see a better line drive rate (16.7% in ’17), and it appeared like he was swinging for the fences in the second half (55.3% fly ball rate), but as long as he can put up a usable average it’s not a crippling mark.  Even at this level, an improvement in strikeouts should lead to a .250ish average (and he could get even better than that).

The big improvement has to come against right-handed pitchers:

  • RHP – .202/.244/.393
  • LHP – .316/.392/.664

Considering he hit .291 against RHP at Triple-A in ’16, there’s obviously hope (he thrived in ’17 as well, albeit in a small sample size).

With 14 HR coming at home, he has the potential to be a Khris Davis type player with the potential to hit for even more average.  That’s going to make him an intriguing player to target late in your drafts…  Assuming he’s locked into the starting lineup on Opening Day.  It’s possible he’s viewed as a platoon player, or maybe a bench option, so we’ll have to watch the Padres offseason closely.  Keep the name tucked away, though, as an ideal target for the last few rounds.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com

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