Why Padres may have preferred Hunter Renfroe to Franmil Reyes

By Sam Weber, Sports Info Solutions

The San Diego Padres have certainly been an interesting team to watch this season. Building around a young core that includes the likes of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis and Chris Paddack, Padres fans will have an entertaining and competent product on the field for years to come.

However, two outfielders the Padres had coming into the season began to outperform their expectations on the backs of their stellar power numbers – Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes. As the trade deadline approached, both names were floated around as potential pieces on the move. With Reyes now on his way to Cleveland, it became evident San Diego saw greater long-term potential in Renfroe, but with similar offensive production, why was this the case?

Renfroe and Reyes are similar hitters, Renfroe is currently sixth in the league in home runs with 29, and Reyes sits right behind him ranked No. 11 at 27.  With a .563 slugging percentage, Renfroe currently ranks No. 14 in the league. Reyes is no slouch either, slugging at a .535 clip.  Renfroe and Reyes each rank in the top 10 percent in isolated power at .324 and .280, respectively. Both are outpacing their past slugging numbers.

They both hit the ball pretty hard. Both rate well in metrics like average exit velocity, barrel percentage and hard-hit percentage. Consistent solid contact and hitting for power made these guys strong offensive contributors for the Padres, with almost identical contributors based on wRC+ and wOBA.

Player Avg. Exit Velocity BIS Hard-Hit Rate wRC+ wOBA
Hunter Renfroe 90.6 34% 116 .346
Franmil Reyes 92.3 34% 117 .348

 

Taking a bit of a closer look, however, we start to see where Renfroe separates himself. One element is the kinds of pitches he’s chosen to swing at that’s made him a better hitter. He’s made major strides hitting the pitches he’s supposed to hit. Here are his numbers from last year and this year for pitches in the middle third of the plate height-wise, where Renfroe is significantly more successful (in other words, pitches that are neither high nor low)

Year BA SLG Swing Rate
2018 .256 .608 51%
2019 .323 .828 63%

 

Renfroe has also added to his value by turning himself into a very good defender this season. He ranks tied for second among leftfielders with 7 Defensive Runs Saved and is also tied for third among rightfielders with 11 DRS.

His defensive improvements come from a combination of everything – turning more balls into outs and his improved ability to throw runners out. He’s had more plays like this full-extension diving catch against Alex Verdugo (we call these “Good Fielding Plays) and this throw to nail Stephen Vogt of the Giants at second base..

Here’s some of his DRS numbers in left field from the past two years. He’s seen more playing time there than in right recently.

Year Throws GFP/DME Total
2018 0 -1 2
2019 3 1 7

 

Like Renfroe has done, I think the next step in Reyes’ game is going to be better pitch selection and improved defense. The past two seasons, he’s tallied -1 and -10 DRS, certainly not trending in the right direction. We’ve also seen him take a bit of a step back in terms of swinging at and chasing offspeed pitches – pitches you don’t necessarily want to swing at on a consistent basis.

2018:

Pitch Type Swing Pct Chase Rate
Curveball 43% 28%
Slider 48% 33%
Changeup 47% 34%

 

2019:

Pitch Type Swing Pct Chase Rate
Curveball 53% 39%
Slider 55% 38%
Changeup 50% 37%

 

This may be a reason why San Diego decided to part ways with Reyes instead of Renfroe at the deadline. With similar power numbers, Renfroe’s defense and plate discipline set him apart and is possibly why he’s still in a Padres uniform today.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. Bob Kaplan · · Reply

    Time will show they picked the wrong guy to keep. Reyes is 4 years younger, and will dh in the American League. Frank Thomas, David Ortiz, and Edgar Martinez were defensive liabilities. Indians got the right guy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: