Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe’s bat is heating up in May
A few short weeks ago, critics were bemoaning the signing of Hunter Renfroe. He was just another bargain bin acquisition by that cheapskate who came from Tampa Bay. It turns out that Chaim Bloom knew what he was doing since it’s hard to imagine where the Boston Red Sox would be without the contributions from Renfroe this month.
Renfroe sputtered out of the gate, hitting a pitiful .167 with a .485 OPS in April. The talking heads were clamoring for a replacement as patience wore thin.
The Red Sox stuck with him and it’s paying off this month. His latest heroics were on display Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels when Renfroe put Boston on the board with a two-run homer in the second inning. The 430-foot frozen rope to deep center proved pivotal in an eventual one-run victory.
The home run was Renfroe’s fifth of the season and fourth this month. He’s now batting .327 with a .942 OPS in May, trailing only Xander Bogaerts (.375, 1.152) among Red Sox hitters with 15+ at-bats this month. Renfroe also leads the team with 11 RBI in May.
Renfroe is a career .229 hitter who has never hit above .248 over a full season. Batting average hasn’t been his strength but the power is real. He blasted a career-high 33 homers in 2019 after reaching 26 in limited time the previous two seasons. That was in San Diego’s pitcher-friendly park so the move to Fenway enhances hit potential.
The difference that has fueled his recent turnaround has been his ability to put the ball in play. Not only is Renfroe striking out less with a career-low 23.3 K% but he’s also using the entire field. Renfroe has predominately been a pull hitter throughout his career with a 49.2 Pull% but he’s improved his ability to stay on pitches to use the opposite field or hammer the ball up the middle. His current 33.7 Oppo% would easily be a career-high, as is the 34.9 Cent% that was on display with his latest home run to dead center.
Spraying the ball around to all fields should lead to a rising batting average and he’s proving that it’s not coming at the expense of his power numbers.
As well as Renfroe has been hitting lately, he’s arguably been more valuable on the defensive end. We knew that he came with a reputation for having a strong throwing arm but the opportunity to watch him on a regular basis has increased our appreciation for Renfroe’s skills as an outfielder. He leads all American League outfielders with 8 defensive runs saved and he’s sixth with a 1.9 UZR.
Renfroe has spent time at all three outfield positions this season and that versatility has been an added bonus. We may never see an outfield as impressive as the one anchored by Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. but the addition of Renfroe has helped mitigate the loss of those Gold Glove outfielders.
Many viewed Renfroe as a part-time platoon player when he signed with the Red Sox but he’s proving to be much more than that. Boston has relied on their versatility but with the team dealing with some injuries, Renfroe is getting plenty of playing time.
It will be difficult to take him out of the lineup if he keeps hitting anywhere near the level we’ve seen this month. Even when he falls into the inevitable slump, Renfroe still provides value with his strong defense. The sour taste from his dismal stretch to open the season is quickly being washed away as Renfroe emerges as one of the most underrated acquisitions from last offseason.