The Red Sox announced the signing of outfielder Hunter Renfroe on Monday to a one-year deal worth $3.1 million (with potential bonuses that could push it up to $3.7 million).
The 28-year-old Renfroe played the 2020 season with the Rays after spending four years with the Padres.
His most recent season was a comparative disappointment at the plate. Renfroe hit just .156 with eight home runs in 42 games with an underwhelming .393 slugging percentage. His .788 career OPS prior to playing in Tampa Bay dipped to .645. And while two of Renfroe’s four postseason hits for the pennant-winning Rays were home runs in the 2020 playoffs, the team designated him for assignment in November.
Now in Boston, Renfroe has a chance to be used more towards his specialty: A right-handed batter facing left-handed pitching. Since 2017, he ranks in the top-25 in both slugging percentage and OPS against lefties. Given Boston’s plethora of left-handed batters, Renfroe could platoon as an effective option to complement the batting order.
— Red Sox (@RedSox) December 15, 2020
Here are a few things to know about Boston’s newest outfielder:
He was originally drafted by the Red Sox a decade ago.
Though Renfroe has never played for Boston, his first official MLB connection was getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2010.
Picked in the 31st round, Renfroe was hardly seen as a top prospect at the time. Still in high school at that point, his potential as a power hitter was already apparent.
“HR = Hunter Renfroe = Home Runs,” declared a 2010 Clarion Ledger headline in Mississippi. But instead of taking a chance to play professionally right away, Renfroe attended Mississippi State to play SEC baseball.
The knowledge of his developing ability continued to grow at the collegiate level. A 2012 article by the Associated Press — on top of revealing Renfroe’s ability to hit 98 mph as a relief pitcher — described the effect he had on his team during batting practice.
“Hunter is one of those kids that when he takes [batting practice] our whole team shuts down and says, ‘Oh my goodness, look at this,'” noted Mississippi State coach John Cohen.
Eventually, Renfroe’s patience with the MLB draft was rewarded. In 2013, he was picked 31st overall by the Padres and signed.
Now, he finally gets a chance to play for the team that originally took a shot on him.
“I’m very excited to be part of the Boston Red Sox,” Renfroe told reporters on Monday. “Obviously they were the first ones to take a shot at me in high school. They drafted me in high school in 2010. I’m pretty excited to get back and to sign with them. I’m probably going to text [Red Sox area scout] Danny Watkins after this and say it took 10 years for me to sign with the Red Sox but I finally did it.”
He’s seen as a perfect hitter for Fenway Park.
Between 2017-2019, Renfroe hit at least 26 home runs a season, hitting a career-high 33 in 2019. A right-handed batter, he’s a pull-hitter who should find a happy home playing at Fenway Park.
“His offensive game is really made for Fenway Park,” noted Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.
“He should be able to mis-hit balls over the Green Monster,” Bloom later added. “We saw it this summer. He was playing in a different uniform, but he came in here and peppered the Mass Pike and also hit balls into the bullpen. He’s got true power to be able to hit balls the other way out of here as a right-hander, and certainly more than enough power to hit and mis-hit balls over the left field wall.”
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) December 14, 2020
“I really look forward to playing hopefully 80-plus games there,” Renfroe said of Fenway. “Especially like you said, the pull hitter I am, there’s no bones about it. I like to pull the ball. I feel like that’s where most of my power is, to left, left-center, so I think that’s going to really treat me.”
“He’s more than a one-trick pony.”
While much of the attention on Renfroe goes to his batting ability, there’s more to his game.
“He’s a very well-rounded player,” Bloom noted. “The power is obvious and that’s been kind of his main calling card throughout his career. But he’s more than a one-trick pony. He’s an athlete. He’s a really good defensive outfielder so he should be able to contribute on both sides of the ball.”
Renfroe had 13 outfield assists in 2019, certified cannon. pic.twitter.com/ptND5F6Okq
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) December 14, 2020
A draft tie to a Red Sox rival.
Usually, the later rounds of the MLB draft carry only a handful of recognizable names, but the 31st round in 2010 had three.
Not only did the Red Sox draft Renfroe, but the Athletics drafted then-promising California high schooler Aaron Judge. Like Renfroe, Judge elected to not sign at that time, and — while also resisting Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting pitch to play college football at Stanford (among other offers) — he decided to attend Fresno State for baseball.
One additional similarity to Renfroe was Judge eventually getting picked in the first round in 2013 (by the Yankees).
There was a Major League player selected in 2010’s 31st round who did sign: Kevin Kiermaier. Renfroe’s 2019 Tampa Bay teammate was drafted 12 picks before him, and has gone on to win three Gold Gloves with the Rays.
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