Every Wednesday, the Rambling takes a youthful turn…
This week, let's turn the spotlight on the big debut of Padres rookie Hunter Renfroe.
Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD) has just hit a ball into your living room. No, really, take a look - all he does is hit home runs. The San Diego Padres' outfielder has decided that he would prefer a loud debut. Renfroe, 24, has always been a well-regarded power prospect. But he was never truly great until this year. In 2014, he hit 27 homers over three stops, but he also had a .660 OPS at AA. Then, last year, he hit another twenty, but he put up a .738 OPS at AA. However, this year, in AAA, he really blew up, putting up a .306/.336/.557 line and smacking 30 homers. However, due to his checkered (statistical) past, it was very hard to tell if his 2016 success would carry over into the Majors.
After all, Renfroe's BB-rate had been slowly diminishing, down to 3.9% in AAA this year. And his K-rate has held steady over 20%, though this year it had actually reached its lowest point, at 20.4%. No matter what, the El Paso Chihuahuas' season was finally over, after a run all the way to the AAA championship (which they lost, unfortunately), so the Padres had nothing to lose by calling up their two top prospects, Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
So, Renfroe was thrown into the Padres' starting lineup right away, and this is what he's done over the first 22 PA of his career: a .381/.409/1.000 line, with four homers and a double. In other words, he's ruining the ball. There are a few caveats, however, other than the fact that the sample size is so small. One is that his reasonable BABIP of .286 shouldn't make you think, "He's going to hit .381!" This is because home runs do not count as "balls in play." So, in so few ABs, four homers are going to skew the results. In addition, he's hit 50% of his balls in the air, with nearly half of those going out of the park. If he continues to hit half of his balls in the air, his AVG will slowly go much further down, and he won't continue to hit homers at a 44.4% rate. The bottom line is this: Renfroe is having a spectacular first week, and will almost certainly be in the 2017 starting lineup - but we have to take a wait-and-see approach to his possible fantasy greatness. The debut is loud, but he'll have to improve his rates in order to keep the volume up.
All stats through Wednesday, September 28th.
You can reach Geoff on Twitter @gigglebowl
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