Padres' young slugger still learning how to play right field
By John Schlegel
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Hunter Renfroe played well after a September call-up last year and appears very much in line to start the season in right field for the Padres, but his journey to become the best he can be is far from over.
It might be a bit much to say that he's still developing at the Major League level, but the power-hitting outfielder has work to do both at the plate and especially in the field. Having converted to outfield his sophomore year of college after playing catcher his whole life, Renfroe is doing what he needs to do to become the type of high-end right fielder the Padres believe he can be.
"You're always developing as a player," said Renfroe, the Padres' first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2013 Draft. "You're never that fine-tuned machine, never perfect, but you're obviously trying to get there."
This spring, Renfroe, the Padres' No. 3 prospect, is refining his mental approach of staying within the strike zone to take advantage of that power bat, the one that popped 30 homers at Triple-A El Paso last season before he hit four in the Majors, including becoming the first player to hit one on the roof of the Western Metal Supply building in left field. But perhaps the more important work is being done in the outfield grass, tracking balls in batting practice and working on his routes and footwork at all times.
"He's always been a guy with raw arm strength," Padres manager Andy Green said. "But he threw somebody out at the plate the other day, and it was great footwork. It wasn't just raw arm strength; it was body behind the throw."
Renfroe, 25, has been getting plenty of time in Cactus League competition to work on his game, leading the team in at-bats with 43 while playing in 14 games. He got a day off Saturday after playing in the Padres' previous six games, with a team off day in the middle of that run.
Considering he first played the outfield on a regular basis midway through his sophomore season at Mississippi State in 2012, moving from behind the plate when regular center fielder C.T. Bradford was injured, it's understandable Renfroe might still need some polishing now that he's in a big league clubhouse.
"Hitting comes more naturally than the outfield for me," Renfroe said. "Outfield is my second position. I'd gone through my whole life as a catcher before I went to the outfield. I work on it a lot more than hitting right now, but I definitely work on both."
Green believes that, along with refining his approach at the plate, if Renfroe makes the adjustments to become better at tracking balls and setting himself up for throws, the Padres could have a top-flight defender on their hands.
"We'd like to turn him from a guy with a great arm in right field into a guy who could win a Gold Glove in right field," Green said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.