Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Is Hunter Renfroe The Next Joey Gallo Or Can He Be More Than That?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There has never been a question about the power upside that Hunter Renfroe brings to the table.  Even playing half his games in Petco Park, the potential is there to routinely hit 35+ HR (he has had 26 HR in the Majors each of the last two seasons, despite getting less than 500 PA per season).  The question has always been whether or not he can pair it with a usable average, and having hit .248 last season the questions certainly prevail.

The biggest question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact.  After a 29.2% strikeout rate in 2017 he posted a much more respectable 24.7% last season.  While still elevated his SwStr% dropped from 15.0% to 13.5%, though before we get too excited his Whiff% against both breaking balls and offspeed pitches remained underwhelming:

Year
Hard
Breaking Ball
Offspeed
201714.81%18.74%12.14%
201811.51%18.68%17.82%

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that opposing pitchers were throwing him fewer fastballs in September (56.06%).  While it didn’t catch up with him yet, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see it happen moving forward.

Renfroe did hit the ball exceptionally hard last season, with a 47.2% Hard%, so we would expect better than a .271 BABIP.  At the same time a pull heavy approach, with just an 18.1% Oppo%, is going to help to offset that.

Just to further suppress the his BABIP, we can’t ignore the consistent pop-up issues that he has had in the Majors:

  • 2016 – 15.4%
  • 2017 – 15.1%
  • 2018 – 15.6%

That, coupled with being prone to the shift, is going to further hamper any upside in his average.  Throw in a crowded outfield mix, which could limit his playing time, and it’s hard to get too excited.

While Renfroe may not quite be on the Joey Gallo extreme, he does have that type of potential risk.  With a rise in strikeouts as well would it really be a surprise to see him not closer to .220 with power?  At the same time, depending on how the off-season goes, would the Padres feel the need to keep him in the lineup at that point?

There’s no questioning the potential as a power hitter, but be cautious before you invest.  Considering he hasn’t  shown the patience to draw a walk, the risk may far outweigh the potential reward.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections:

Player
Date Posted
Dylan Bundy10/22/18
Foltynewicz, Mike10/09/18
Gibson, Kyle10/29/18
Hoskins, Rhys10/16/18
Hosmer, Eric11/05/18
Wheeler, Zack10/02/18

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