If you haven’t looked at any draft boards lately you may have missed that Hunter Renfroe is no longer in Boston. With all the drama of the CBA unfolding this winter it went a bit unnoticed; but, minutes before the lockout began the Red Sox made a deal with the Brewers and traded Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr and minor leaguers David Hamilton and Alex Binelas. Coming on the heels of former Brewer Avisail Garcia signing with the Marlins, Renfroe goes to the Brewers to fill the void in RF for the National League team that is soon to have a DH as well, maybe he finally sees 600+ PAs… my interest is piqued.
Hunter Renfroe had a lot better season than we all remember. After a slow start to the season, and a forgettable July, Renfroe finished the season with 16 HR over the last 2 months with 40 RBI.
This strong finish led to him piecing together a very respectable 89/31/96/1/.259 season over 144 games in 521 ABs. Hunter has always been a pretty productive power hitter, the only thing he’s been missing in the past has been consistent ABs. As we look at his career production to date, we can see he’s been a pretty consistent power hitter.
When you prorate each of his seasons where he got more than 400 PAs up to 600 (a full season) you see that he’s always produced at a rate above 30 HR and 2 of the years pacing for over 90 RBIs. 2019 was the high year for power in which he was pacing for 40 HR in San Diego despite hitting for a low average. So the power run-producing numbers have always been there. The career-high in average does look like it was boosted by a career-high in BABIP that was no doubt aided by playing his home games in Fenway.
This is confirmed by looking at his home/away splits. When batting at home his BABIP vs right-handed pitching was over 80 points higher than on the road. So that doesn’t give us much hope that the batting average gains from last year will follow him with his move to Milwaukee. Miller Park had a neutral or just below average park factor for BABIP/hits last year in baseball, BUT, what his new park does offer him, is support for his right-handed pull power.
Above you see a spray chart of Hunter Renfroe’s balls in play. Last year he hit 31 HRs and his xHR (expected home runs) were 34, and if all his games were in Miller Park it would have been 35. And when you look at the chart where you can see doubles, there are at least 10 in the gray area that could be affected by environmental conditions, and a few loud outs that could have cleared the wall. All that to say, given 600+ PAs, there’s a fair chance that Hunter could get to the 40 HR mark as a Brewer. But wait, there’s more.
Last year Renfroe lowered his K-rate to the career-best 22.7% while increasing his average exit velo and max exit velo, also to career-bests. And then the cherry on top is career-best marks in his barrel rate and hard-hit rates. He could very well be on the verge of his best power year yet. All he needs is an everyday role to seize the opportunity, and this feels like the year.
So why the optimism about his playing time? Unlike Boston, his new team is lacking in depth at OF with the departure of Garcia, and then when you throw in the addition of the DH, there will be more at-bats to go around. And rather than batting 5th or 6th, he will likely be nested in the top half of the order at cleanup. Over the last few years, Renfroe has become a slightly above average glove in right field to complement his exceptional arm (that he’s always had) which could cement him an everyday starting role after coming into the league as well below average.
At his current ADP in NFBC of 167, there’s a buying opportunity there to get a guy that could threaten top 100 value. Fellow power hitters like Schwarber, Haniger, and Meadows all profile in a similar way yet are going 30+ picks sooner. If you secured steals/average with 5 tool hitters early in the draft, Renfroe represents a good value to gain in the middle rounds that could net you a nice production for the pick with solid ROI.
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