Dustin Hunter Renfroe
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 200 lb.
- School Mississippi State University
- High School Copiah Academy
- Debut September 21, 2016
Outfielder Hunter Renfroe was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 31st round of the 2010 amateur draft. He did not sign, opting to attend Mississippi State University instead. He was then taken by the San Diego Padres and scout Andrew Salvo in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft with the 13th overall pick, and he signed for a $2.678 million bonus. He made his pro debut with the Eugene Emeralds on July 11th, going 2-for-4 with a run scored against the Everett AquaSox.
He was named the Player of the Year in the Pacific Coast League in 2016 when he hit .306 with 34, doubles, 30 homers and 105 RBIs in 133 games for the El Paso Chihuahuas. He had an unusual debut for the Padres on September 21st as he was intentionally walked by Edwin Escobar of the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was asked to come in as a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning. He was one of three players to make his big league debut for San Diego in that game, alongside Carlos Asuaje and Manuel Margot. It did not take him long to make his mark in the majors, though, as on September 27th, he hit his first career grand slam and also added a three-run homer to drive in all seven Padres runs in a 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 7 RBI tied the team record for most in a game. He had hit his first career homer on September 24th, a solo shot off Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. On September 28th, he became the first player to hit a ball onto the roof of the brick warehouse in the left-field corner of Petco Park as he homered and drove in four more runs in a 6-5 win over the Dodgers. He finished the season at .371 with 4 homers and 14 RBIs in 11 games for an excellent first cup of coffee in the bigs.
Renfroe's excellent performance at the end of 2016 earned him a starting job on the Padres in 2017, as he claimed the starting right field job in spring training and held on to hit. It was a trying year for San Diego, which was going through a full-on youth movement and was never even close to contending in the strong NL West, instead fighting with the San Francisco Giants to see who could avoid finishing last in the division. Still, playing under the radar, Hunter had a decent season. On September 20th, he had the first three-homer game of his career in a 13-7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping the Padres set a team record for homers in a season as they reached 181, reflecting the record number of long balls hit in the majors that year. He finished at .231 with 26 homers and 58 RBIs in 122 games. In 2018, the Padres continued to occupy the basement in their division, but Renfroe improved by small steps, upping his OPS+ from 96 to 119 and his OBP from .284 to .302. He hit .248 with 26 homers and 48 RBIs in 117 games while splitting his time between left field and right field.
In 2019, the Padres made a push to get out of the cellar with the signing of free agent Manny Machado and the aggressive promotion of youngsters like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack. Renfroe, for his part was still seeing time at both corner outfield spots. On May 5th, he hit a game-ending grand slam with two outs in the 9th against closer Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers to turn what looked like a 5-4 loss into an 8-5 win. On June 14th, he had a three-homer day to lead the Padres to a 16-12 win over the Colorado Rockies. His third long ball came in the 12th, but only after the Pads had rallied for 6 runs in the top of the 9th to tie the game, and he had contributed a two-run homer to that push. He added two more dingers in the fourth game of the series, to give him 23 on the year. The two teams combined for a major league record 92 runs in the four games. He finished the season at .216 in 140 games, but with 33 homers and 64 RBIs. His OBP was just .289, and it was a stat in which the Padres did poorly across the board. Therefore, on December 6th, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with minor league infielder Xavier Edwards in return for OF Tommy Pham and two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth. Pham was an older player, but an ace at getting on-base.
In his one season for the Rays in 2020, which was shortened to 60 games by the Coronavirus pandemic, Renfroe played 42 games and his just .156, but with 8 homers and 22 RBIs as the team's primary right fielder in what was a highly changing line-up. He could have ended up as an afterthought in the postseason, but given a chance to start Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 30th, he hit a grand slam off Hyun-Jin Ryu in the 2nd inning that was the key blow in the 8-2 win. He was hardly used in the next round, getting just 1 at-bat in the Rays' defeat of the New York Yankees in the Division Series, but got more opportunities in the ALCS and World Series. In the latter, he hit another important homer, coming in the wild Game 4, off Julio Urias of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as part of an 8-7 win. He also made some very good defensive plays in the outfield throughout the postseason, highlighting his athleticism. He became a free agent following the season when the Rays had him designated for assignment on November 20th. On December 14th he signed for one year with the team that had originally drafted him - but who had failed to sign him - back in 2010, the Boston Red Sox. The deal was for $3.1 million and the Red Sox explained the signing by stating that his swing was "tailor-made for Fenway Park". He had indeed had a two-homer game there on August 13th.
Hunter had a very solid season for the Red Sox in 2021, hitting .259 in 144 games with 31 homers and 96 RBIs as the regular right fielder. His OPS+ was 112. This helped to put the Sox into the postseason, and he was solid during the Wild Card Game and Division Series, going a combined 6 for 20, although extra-base hits and RBIs were rare. In the ALCS against the Houston Astros, he completely cratered however, going just 1 for 16 as the Sox were eliminated in 6 games. Following the season on December 1st, in a bit of a surprise move, the Sox traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in order to bring back defensive wizard Jackie Bradley Jr. Given that Bradley was coming off an awful season with the bat, the Brewers also threw a couple of prospects into the deal IFs David Hamilton and Alex Binelas.
- 2016 Player of the Year Pacific Coast League El Paso Chihuahuas
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2017-2019 & 2021)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2019 & 2021)
- Ian Browne: "'Made for Fenway': OF Renfroe joins Red Sox", mlb.com, December 14, 2020.