Renfroe grew up a fan of the Atlanta Braves.
"Anytime anyone asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to be the next Chipper Jones and play professional baseball at the highest level," Hunter said.
One Hunter Renfroe story involves the doubleheader when a gaggle of national top-level scouts showed up to see him, only to see the opposing coach intentionally walk Renfroe every time he came to bat.
One scout, who’ll remain nameless, came down from the bleachers to the fence and offered to buy the opposing coach a steak dinner if he’d pitch to Renfroe. (The offer wasn’t claimed.)
- In 2010, Renfroe's senior year at private Copiah Academy in Gallman, Mississippi, he put up absurd numbers as a high school senior for tiny Copiah Academy in Gallman, Miss., where there were just 40 students in his graduating class. He hit 20 home runs as a senior—a state record for private schools—and hit .583 with 16 stolen bases.
“I’m from a town of maybe 4,000 people in it,” Renfroe said, referring to Crystal Springs, Miss. “I was flying under the radar; I went to an academy school. A lot of Major League scouts knew about me, and I told them I wanted to go to college and experience that. Colleges were iffy about it, they weren’t sure about it.”
In 2010, Hunter committed to a baseball scholarship to Mississippi State. And he passed up the Red Sox offer after they chose him in the 31st round of the draft. He headed off to Starkville, Mississippi. There, he studied kinesiology.
Renfroe arrived in Starkville as a catcher who also dabbled in pitching, and he said a full-time move to the outfield in 2012 helped him relax and concentrate on his hitting and his defense at a less demanding position.
And Hunter finished the 2013 season hitting .345 with 16 home runs and 65 RBIs in 66 games for Mississippi State.
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Renfroe as the 4th-best prospect in the Padres' organization. In the offseason before 2015 spring camps opened, he was ranked at #3 in the San Diego farm system. And he stayed as 3rd-best in the spring(s) of both 2016 and 2017, also.
- Hunter was driving a GMC Sierra in 2013 and 2014.
One of his pet peeves is when people are being loud somewhere you are not supposed to be loud. Like in a movie theater.
"No (you shouldn't ever be loud). It drives me absolutely nuts," Hunter said.
Hunter says his favorite food is barbecue—ribs are his favorite.
- He is very easy-going. And he is humble.
- Renfroe needs to stay on top of his conditioning if he is to reach his ceiling.
- In November 2013, he placed first among National Leaguers in the Bowman Hitting in the Arizona Fall League.
2014 Season: Hunter played in 129 games between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio and represented the Padres in both the California-Carolina League All-Star Game and the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
April 13, 2017: Padres fans have dreamt of an everyday outfield featuring Manuel Margot in center field and Hunter Renfroe in right. Well, it's here. And the two rookies have come as advertised.
San Diego's top two offensive prospects probably won't remain "prospects" much longer. They're already carving themselves a niche at the big league level.
"I wish it had happened sooner," Renfroe said with a laugh. "But it feels good to have come up together and have the relationship that we have." With adjoining lockers in San Diego's home clubhouse, the duo offers quite the contrast.There's Renfroe, a country-bred Mississippi State product, built like a linebacker with broad shoulders and massive arms. And there's Margot, an agile native of the Dominican Republic with long legs and a thin frame. From the outside, it seems like a bit of an odd pairing. But no one's a bigger Margot fan than Renfroe. And vice versa.
"He's a worker," Margot said through a team interpreter. "He's a person anyone would want on their team. ... He's someone who gives you energy, he's someone who pays attention. It would be a real pleasure to play next to him for the rest of my career."
Said Renfroe: "We have a lot of fun. He's a great baseball player. I want to see him go as far as he possibly can in this game."
Manager Andy Green noted that their simultaneous arrival likely brought some added comfort. If all goes according to plan, Renfroe and Margot will help comprise the Padres' outfield well into the future. They represent the first "wave of talent" ushered to the big leagues under general manager A.J. Preller's long-term vision.
"You want [the fans] to rally around guys that are good baseball players, first and foremost," Green said. "So if there's a sentiment from these fans to wait and see how good these guys are, I understand that. ... In due time, they're going to realize these guys are really good. And our hope and goal is that they're guys that are here for a very, very long time." (A Cassavell - MLB.com - April 13, 2017)
Before Hunter turned 10, he had already played hundreds of games across his native Mississippi. Traveling to a new tournament every weekend, Todd Renfroe noticed rather quickly that his son's schedule would only get more intense over the years.
"Hotel rooms are expensive," Todd Renfroe said. "Food is expensive. We were going to go out of town every weekend. So you either go broke buying food and hotel rooms, or you buy a camper." They chose the latter in the form of a brand new 2003 Cherokee fifth wheel.
"That camper solidified they were in it for me until I didn't want to be in it," Hunter said. "We still have the camper to this day." That camper transported Todd and Hunter across the southeastern United States. It left countless baseball diamonds and memories in its wake.
Like the time Renfroe's team, the Mississippi Bandits, was knocked out surprisingly early from a tournament in Gulfport, Miss. "It was a week-long tournament, so we just went down to Gulf Shores, Ala., and we stayed the rest of the week at the beach," Todd said.
Todd recalled the trip fondly. Hunter did, too, perhaps for different reasons. "We were surrounded by pine trees at the campground. And literally, you could not stand outside, because there were so many mosquitoes," Hunter said. "It was hilarious -- we'd go outside, cook outside, run back inside and eat. That night, we had a bunch of raccoons coming up onto the steps of the camper begging for food. It was crazy. But it was a lot of fun."
The Renfroes credit their trips around the state in that camper for their lasting friendship. And make no mistake, the father-son relationship between Todd and Hunter is most certainly a friendship. Todd was the best man in Hunter's wedding, and the two still regularly hunt and fish together.
"My being an only child, he was always there pitching to me, working with me at the field," Hunter said. "It was always fun to be with him, doing all that traveling, being with him the whole time. He's always been my best friend since."
In the 14 years since the Renfroes invested in their Cherokee fifth wheel, Hunter made the College World Series with Mississippi State, was drafted by the Padres and has developed into one of the Majors' top rookies in 2017. In short: plenty has changed. The camper hasn't. "I'm looking at it right now," Todd Renfroe said over the phone. "It's still in great shape." (Cassavell - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
- June 2013: The Padres chose Renfroe in the first round—the 13th player picked overall. And he signed with scout Andrew Salvo for a bonus of $2,678,000.
|Birth City:||Jackson, MS|
|Draft:||Padres #1 - 2013 - Out of Mississippi State Univ.|
Renfroe has very good bat speed and impressive power that scouts rate as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has tremendous strength and bat speed. There are not a lot of prospects with Hunter's extra-base hit potential. He was concentrating on applying his tremendous bat seed for big power. In 2015, all of his home runs were pull-side, none to the opposite field.
But in 2016, Hunter closed his stance and shortened his swing, He then hit 10 of his 30 home runs to the opposite field, making him a more complete hitter.
Lake Elsinore hitting coach Jody Davis saw room for improvement, reasoning that if Renfroe were to streamline his swing a tad, the home runs would still come. They just wouldn’t go quite as far. The payoff would be fewer strikeouts and better at-bats overall. And Hunter made the adjustment in 2016.
“He just jumps at the ball and turns up the effort to a level that he doesn’t have to,” Davis said. “That all comes from wanting to hit the ball way out of here instead of just out of here. Everything is there. We just have to develop it the best we can to get the most out of him.”
Hunter hits from an upright stance, an uppercut swing, and pulls the ball hard to left field. He really gets out ot his front side quickly. He toned down the high leg kick to a simple leg sweep, compacting his swing in order to start his bat sooner, and shorten the bat path.
In 2015, San Antonio hitting coach Morgan Burkhart and roving instructor Luis Ortiz had Renfroe shorten his leg kick and adjust his hands, which helped him become shorter and quicker to the ball. He also employed a more selective approach. Strikeouts were the tradeoff for Renfroe’s plus power, and he’s no future batting champ, because his swing can get long and he tends to slip back into bad habits.
He is learning to swing through the ball and hit in straightaway, rather than trying to uppercut the ball to his pull side (left field). (Spring 2016)
He makes impact contact. When he hits it, the sumbitch is whistling off the bat. He’s just an old school country guy; he is very explosive. The better he hits, the more the power shows up.
Hunter can mis-hit the ball out of the park. The bat has that sound when he connects.
He likes the ball up in the strike zone.
Renfroe has shown improved plate discipline. He has a better game plan at the plate, and he’s able to slow down the game a little more. He is really staying on the breaking ball a lot better now, though he can still look uncomfortable against good curveballs or sliders.
He cut his strikeout rate to 20 percent in 2016.
Hunter says that the most important thing in baseball is, "just getting the run in (home). It doesn't make any difference if it is just an easy groundball to first (base)."
He says he uses a toe-tap as a timing mechanism. "It gets all my weight on his back-side. The toe-tap allows me to stay back and see the ball longer."
Renfroe has big-time raw power and likes to show it. He takes uppercut swings and tries too often to lift everything.
In 2014, Lake Elsinore coaches tried to remind him to swing through the ball instead, for he has the bat speed and strength to hit balls over the fence naturally. He did cut down his strikeout rate by the time he moved on, but controlling the zone is something he’ll have to continue to improve.
"Physically, Hunter can hit the ball out of anywhere. He's got light-tower power. He has a lot to learn. But it was really his first full season. To be where he is in this progression and in his development is really impressive," Padres' Minor League hitting coordinator Sean Berry said. (9/6/14)
Hunter's high number of Ks is allowable in this day and time. He produces big power, and he walks a lot for a good on-base percentage. But that big leg kick and busy swing will only allow him to hit about .250, or so. But, he improved his ability to hit for average in 2016. He needs to improve his ability to work the count and get on base more often if he’s going to hit for average.
Like most corner outfielders, Renfroe's bat will determine his playing time.
2014 Season: Renfroe had a middling April, but it gave way to a huge May, during which he homered nine times. That kind of power is one of two very loud tools Renfroe possesses, the other being his throwing arm.
Then, in the 2014 Arizona Fall League: Renfroe and Greg Bird shared the home run title with 6 home runs.
As he did in his amateur career, Renfroe showed he can adapt once he gets substantial exposure to a higher level."I think he’s really turned the corner as far as some of the mechanical stuff in his swing over the last year,” Padres farm director Sam Geaney said in July 2016.
September 27, 2016: On a night that saw Hunter hit a three-run homer and an eighth-inning grand slam—to drive in every run the Padres put on the scoreboard—Renfroe became the first Padres rookie in history to drive in seven runs in a game.
October 2016: Renfroe was named the Padres hitting prospect of the year by MLB.com. He was the MVP of the Pacific Coast League, ranking among the league leaders with 30 home runs (tied for first), 105 RBIs (second) and a .557 slugging percentage (second).
September 21, 2017: When Hunter was optioned to Triple-A El Paso on Aug. 19, he sat four home runs shy of the Padres' rookie home run record. With no guarantee of another callup, the right fielder seemed unlikely to reach Nate Colbert's 24.
Since his return, Renfroe has eliminated almost all doubt regarding whether he will end the season with the most home runs by a San Diego rookie. After hitting a three-run blast in his first at-bat back in the big leagues, Renfroe slugged three more home runs in a 13-7 loss to Arizona, becoming the first Padres player with a three-homer game since Phil Nevin in 2001.
With El Paso, Renfroe focused on having less movement in his hands.
"Kind of keep it still and try to make it as quiet as possible," Renfroe said. "But still keep the explosiveness." It clearly remained as Renfroe posted the first three-homer game by a Padres rookie.
"I'm probably the only person in the ballpark who will say this," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He hits three home runs, that's probably what everyone else in the ballpark will fixate on. I look out in right field on a break on a shallow fly ball, and it was the best jump I've ever seen him get. That excites me more, because that, to me, is real growth, getting after his defense." (Ruiz - mlb.com - 9/21/17)
Hunter used to be a strong-armed catcher, who hit 90 mph off the mound in high school. He could get the ball from glove-to-glove in impressive 1.95 to 2.1 second times. He has a 70 grade arm on the 20-80 scouting scale in right field.
Mississippi State moved Renfroe to the outfield in 2012. And he has become an outstanding defender in right field, where his rifle arm is a huge asset. Nobody questions Renfroe’s tools package, which compared favorably with any player.
Renfroe goes after balls is like his hair is on fire, showing impressive closing speed. He has a unique feel for the game.
Hunter has above-average range and instincts in the outfield. He can play center field even without plus speed.
- As with his power, Renfroe likes to show off his cannon in right field. His throwing accuracy and solid range make him a solid all-around defender.
- Hunter is an average runner (50 on the 20-80 scouting scale), but has plus speed under way. He won't steal many bases, but he is fast enough that opposing batteries have to pay attention to him.
- July 10-20, 2017: Hunter was on the DL with strained neck