Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe has been on fire since in May
The Boston Red Sox did not have a set starting outfield heading into the 2021 season. Alex Verdugo was expected to play almost every day in either center or right but other than him, the team was expected to rotate between several players to fill the other two spots.
Boston knew J.D Martinez would play in the field from time to time, although he would primarily be designated hitter. Kike Hernandez was signed to play second base, but was expected to fill in at other positions as needed, including center.
Furthermore, the Red Sox acquired Franchy Cordero in the Andrew Benintendi trade. He was recently optioned to Worcester, but the team had hoped that he would be a viable part of an outfield platoon. Chaim Bloom also signed Marwin Gonzalez, another versatile utility player like Hernandez, who was expected to play some infield, some outfield.
More from Red Sox News
- Conflicting report about Mookie Betts trade paints Chaim Bloom in even worse light
- Boston Red Sox setting Trevor Story up for failure amidst Xander Bogaert departure
- Red Sox missed perfect free-agent signing to torment Yankees
- Red Sox finally get validation after Andrew Benintendi-White Sox contract
- Red Sox fans’ concern about Justin Turner signing speaks volumes
Finally, the Red Sox signed Hunter Renfroe, hoping that he could play outfield against lefties and provide some power. He had hit 33 homers in 2019, so it was a pretty solid plan.
Unfortunately, Renfroe did not live up to expectations, looking absolutely lost at the plate (to his credit, he played—and has continued to play—fantastic defense).
Renfroe played 19 games in March and April. He posted a .167/.235/.250 line with an abysmal .485 OPS and only 1 home run. He was hitting roughly as well as the aforementioned Cordero, and fans—and, presumably, members of the front office—were very disappointed.
We are now approaching the end of May, the second full month of the regular season, and Renfroe has turned things around entirely. In 23 games this month entering Monday, Renfroe has hit .307/.322/.557 with 5 homers, and a fantastic .879 OPS.
Part of this improvement is certainly better luck. Renfroe had a terrible .209 BABIP in March and April, compared to .344 in May. A big part, however, is that he is simply hitting the ball much harder now than he did at the beginning of the season. Renfroe hit the ball “soft” slightly over 18% of the time prior to May, and has only done so 11.6% of the time since, per FanGraphs. His hard-contact percentage has jumped from 22.7% to 40.6% during the same time frame.
Entering 2021, the Red Sox knew that a successful outfield would mean at least 4 or 5 players splitting time and performing well. Verdugo has been great all season, and Martinez has been exactly what we expected—a great hitter, but one who should really be exclusively a designated hitter. Hernandez has been passable, certainly not a true weakness. For a little over a month, however, Gonzalez, Cordero, and Renfroe were all underperforming and hurting the team.
Renfroe has completely turned his season around since the calendar turned to May. With the demotion of Cordero, Renfroe will most likely get the vast majority of the playing time in right field. If he can continue to hit as well as he has for the past month, the Red Sox outfield starts to look much, much better.