Red Sox: Good to be wrong about Hunter Renfroe, Josh Taylor

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 11: Relief pitcher Josh Taylor #38 of the Boston Red Sox pitches at the top of the seventh inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on June 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 11: Relief pitcher Josh Taylor #38 of the Boston Red Sox pitches at the top of the seventh inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on June 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /
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A pair of Red Sox pluses for 2021 are Hunter Renfroe, Josh Taylor

With great pleasure, I will mention two Red Sox players that I thought were a waste of ozone. Both have certainly surprised this observer and without their contributions, the season may have been a wee bit more disappointing.

Hunter Renfroe was dumped by the Tampa Bay Rays. Simple as that. After hitting just .156, that is no great shock. Renfroe did hit eight home runs and bag 22 RBI in 132 plate appearances in the truncated 2020 season. Renfroe also continued to whiff at an alarming rate with a 26.6 K%. But putting that in the perspective of today’s game may not be as dramatic as 20 or 30 years ago.

The 29-year-old right-hand hitter has some quite respectable power numbers, slugging 87 bombs in a three-year spread (2017-2017) with the Padres. Renfroe also took the walk of shame with 403 K’s over the same period. The Friars shipped Renfroe to Tampa in a trade that will not be registered as one of the more shining moments in Tampa’s trading history.

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The Red Sox apparently saw the value and dismissed 2020 as an aberration. Renfroe took a one-year deal at $3.3 million and so far the results have been positive. A signing that I firmly expected to be in the flop category. The surprise is not the power – that is expected, but the average that has slowly crept up to the .260 range. The 103 wRC+ is above the magical 100 and Renfroe’s 0.6 fWAR will continue to rise.

Assumptions cat bite you, especially in baseball. Defensively, I assumed Renfroe had all the mobility of a block of cheese. A disastrous potential at Fenway Park. Renfroe is certainly not in the elite category, but solid.

Boston fans have seen Mookie Betts win multiple Gold Gloves patrolling right field. Further back is Dwight Evans who certainly saved many a pitcher’s mistakes. Strong company for right field comparisons. What does stand out is two noted metrics (150 innings Min) – Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Out of Zone (OOZ). Renfroe has a +4 on DRS and is off the charts with 43 OOZ. He can cover that dead zone between center and right.

Renfroe has the arm strength that can cause trepidation for even the fleetest of base runners going from first to third. Renfroe leads all American League right fielders with nine assists. He also is tied with most errors at four.

I had left-hander Josh Taylor consigned to roster trimming. Since that frame of thought, the 28-year-old has been unhittable. I lost count of the number of consecutive appearances unscored upon.

In 2019, Taylor was borderline spectacular. Taylor earned his way to Boston via the defunct PawSox and appeared in 52 games. An 11.79 K% and respectable control with a 3.04 BB%. The deal that sent Deven Marrero to Arizona for Taylor seemed inconsequential at the time. No more.

The 2020 season for Taylor was a nightmare as it was for the whole team. Especially noteworthy was Taylor also had to deal with COVID-19 and the eventual stat line was forgettable. In 2021, Taylor started off where he left off the previous season. At the end of April, Taylor had allowed 18 hits in 9.1 innings and his ERA was a train wreck. Since then Taylor has been pristine.

Taylor has a fastball in the mid-90s and a nasty slider. In his last 16 innings, Taylor has whiffed 23 and walked just six. Occasionally, Taylor will lose focus and control becomes an issue. Right-hand hitters are also touching a .300 average but that is weighted by the April debacle.

Taylor may yet crash and burn. Sometimes it is just a pitching version of a hot streak by a hitter. The real key is Matt Barnes. Barnes will be a free agent and is on the cusp of Liam Hendriks money. If the Red Sox need a replacement, Taylor is making a case for him to be considered. As for now, manager Alex Cora has not hesitated about putting Taylor into high leverage situations.

The Red Sox system has certainly not been noted for churning out lefties. Farm wise, Sparky Lyle stands out. Naturally, Boston shipped Lyle away only to see him capture a Cy Young Award for you know who. Taylor reminds me somewhat of Alan Embree who was a noted lefty option for a few seasons. The Red Sox either lucked out or did some serious evaluation in getting Taylor.

Next. Richards needs a break to reinvent himself. dark

Taylor and Renfroe are two surprises for me. I felt both were designed for the scrap yard. There are times when being dead wrong is a real plus, but to make my ego feel a tad better I was totally against signing Danny Santana.