Last season after an April that saw him strike out 40 times in 114 plate appearances, Renfroe made some adjustments and subsequently posted an OPS of 1.019 in May and .909 in June before being called up to Double-A San Antonio at the end of the month.
So far his performances last year and this have not been what he or the Padres’ have expected, but Renfroe has been making adjustments and some of them are beginning to take as evidenced by his .290/.372/.500 line in June.
When he is on, Renfroe, 23, is truly a five-tool player, but he is also relatively inexperienced with only 570 plate appearances in college and under a 1,000 since he has become a Padre.
We caught up with Hunter at the end of May to talk about his in-season adjustments and learning how to become a pro.
You made some adjustments this year at the plate recently. Could you take us through them?
Hunter Renfroe Really just the whole stance situation. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t toe tap and just staying quieter and quicker at the plate. It’s been an uncomfortable process, but it is a process.
I’m starting to see the ball a little better and am a little shorter to the ball now.
That is a big adjustment to make in the middle of the season as compared to Instructs.
Hunter Renfroe I took two days off when we realized that we were going to do it and just tried to get it down and hit the ball solid. I’m just trying to stay as compact as possible.
It seems like this is typical of your career. You start slow then you make a few adjustments and take off.
Hunter Renfroe At Lake Elsinore I was under a lot of balls and we worked on staying on top of the pitch and shooting it the other way; which really helped. It is just about getting the adjustments down and then doing the reps to make it work.
It did and I ended up here midway through last year. Now it’s kind of taking some time to make adjustments to this park and this league. A few times I’ve hit some balls really hard and they have just been eaten up here.
Now it’s a learning process. You know the situation and try to adjust.
Everyone in the system talks about your power. So if you are talking about Nelson Wolff being a difficult place to hit it must really be tough.
Hunter Renfroe It is ridiculous, it really is. I hit one the other day that should have been gone and it ended up on the top of the fence. Which makes it about five that should have gone this year.
You just have to take your doubles where you can get them and worry about home runs in someone else’s park.
How many mental adjustments did you have to make because the pitchers have better command at this level?
Hunter Renfroe Not that much. I’ve faced guys like this before. To me it’s more about making the physical adjustments so you know where your hands and foot should be so you go into games just worrying about seeing the ball.
Compared to some players you haven’t had that many at-bats in both college and the pros.
Hunter Renfroe To some extent, yes. The more reps I get, the better player that I believe I will become. As you get older you start to figure out different situations and the game gets slower.
Is part of getting better, “learning how to learn” because you get so much information coming at you.
Hunter Renfroe Absolutely. You know what works for you and who you should be listening too. Everyone, fans, family, friends will come up to you with some advice that you just have to take with a grain of salt - even though they mean it with the best intentions - you will drive yourself crazy if you listen to everyone.
You read that some hitters want to know everything want to know every possible thing a pitcher can do, while others are more worried about their own mechanics with the belief that if they are doing what they are supposed to, they will be ok.
Are you more of that type of hitter?
Hunter Renfroe I am. By the end of the year you will know the pitchers you are going to face, if you don’t already because I saw a lot of these guys in the Cal League.
I’ve always thought that it is much more important for me to be in a position to hit because at the end of the day they have to throw a strike across the plate to get me out. If you are swinging at good pitches, you are going to be ok.
How about defense? They have played you all over the place in the outfield.
Hunter Renfroe I am probably more comfortable in right. Right and center are the easiest of the three for me. Left field is the hardest because of the angles; especially when righties hit those topspin line drives that tail away from you.
Like anything, the more reps you take the easier it becomes for you.
My colleague David Jay asked you about this in the spring. There are so many stories floating around about you running down a deer in a meadow and catching tarantulas with your hands in the Dominican Republic.
David said he asked you and you said, “some are true and some get grown on as the years go, but it’s mostly true.”
Are you still going to stick with that?
Hunter Renfroe [laughs]Yes, I think I will. We did some things in college with hunting at Mississippi State and some deer were taken and some tarantulas were caught in the Dominican.
I do like that answer, I think I will stay with it.
What has been the biggest adjustment for you on becoming a pro?
Hunter Renfroe Just being away from family and being away from the South. Playing everyday is the biggest adjustment on the field. Away from the field it’s just becoming your own person because you are out here by yourself. You have to learn what works best for you without anyone telling you what to do.
The coaches are here to help you and if you don’t want to use them it’s your choice; everyone here is different in how they look at coaching. For me, I try to use them as much as possible because they will make me better.