Padres' right-field job belongs to Renfroe

Prospect made auspicious debut last September

Padres' right-field job belongs to Renfroe

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

If first impressions count, Hunter Renfroe made a positive mark with the Padres last September.

Especially on the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.

On Sept. 28, the night after he drove in seven runs with a pair of homers, Renfroe became the first player to hit a home run onto the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field at Petco Park.

It's what Padres dreams are made of.

If the 2016 season was a struggle for the Padres, the 11-game cameo played by Renfroe at the end of the season gave fans hope for the future.

After being named the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League and leading El Paso to the Triple-A league's championship, Renfroe went 13-for-35 for the Padres with three doubles, four homers, 14 RBIs and eight runs scored.

Oh My!

Renfroe's arrival put a charge into Padres fans entering the long winter.

And as Spring Training approaches, Renfroe, who turns 25 on Jan. 28, appears set to start a long run in right field for the Padres.

Right field has long been a position of strength for the Padres. It was the position of Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield and Brian Giles as well as the original Padre, Ollie Brown.

Among them all, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe might have the highest power potential. Raw power.

Must C: Renfroe's seven-RBI game

He hit a total of 34 homers last year between El Paso and the Padres. He hit 20 in 2015 between Double-A San Antonio and El Paso. And 21 the season before that.

Of course, potential is not a Major League record of production. Renfroe's true resume is limited to 11 games (and only eight starts). And his defense in right field raised some concerns.

But unless something drastically unforeseen happens, the right-handed slugger -- who was the Padres' No. 3 prospect in the most recent MLB.com ratings as well as No. 41 among all Major League prospects -- will be in right field when the Padres open the 2017 season.

Renfroe prepped for his opportunity by hitting .306 with 34 doubles, five triples, 30 homers and 105 RBIs in 133 Triple-A games last season en route to winning the PCL MVP Award. The only flaw in his game was that he drew only 22 walks in 563 plate appearances for a .336 on-base percentage. But a .557 slugging percentage gave him a .893 OPS.

Renfroe led the PCL in extra-base hits (69) and total bases (297) last year and was second in homers, RBIs, hits (163) and slugging percentage.

The Padres need Renfroe to come through in right field because there's not much Major League-ready talent at the position in the organization aside from the club's first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2013 Draft out of Mississippi State.

Jabari Blash played 18 games in right for the Padres last season but hit only .169 with 34 strikeouts in 71 at-bats. Travis Jankowski also started games in right.

Prospects: Of course, Renfroe is still rated as a prospect in right.

The next closest right-field prospect to the Major Leagues in the Padres system is probably Nick Schulz, who hit .282 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 106 games with San Antonio last season. Schulz, 25, signed with the Padres in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State.

But there are some younger players to watch in right.

Jorge Oña is ranked as the No. 11 international prospect after the young Cuban signed with the Padres for a $7 million signing bonus last summer. The 20-year-old Oña (6-foot-2) has a short, compact swing with a strong arm in right. During the 2014 Pan American Championships in Mexico, Oña hit .636 (14-for-22) with four home runs in eight games. He had a .733 on-base percentage, a 1.364 slugging percentage and a 2.0973 OPS.

Younger than Oña is 16-year-old Tirso Ornelas, who was ranked the top prospect in Mexico when he signed with the Padres last summer. The Tijuana native is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.

Two other international signees from last summer could eventually land in right. Jeisson Rosario, 17, is ranked the No. 15 international prospect. He is 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. And Agustin Ruiz, 17, from Tabasco, Mexico, is 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds.

Already in the system are 19-year-olds Luis Asuncion and Tre Carter and 6-foot-3, 200-pound Taylor Kohlwey.

An 11th-round pick in last June's Draft, the 6-foot-2, 181-pound Carter, a left-handed hitter, hit .298 with a .411 on-base percentage for the Arizona Rookie Padres. Asuncion, a native of the Dominican Republic, hit .241 in 58 games with short-season Class A Tri-City. Kohlwey, a 21st-round pick last June out of Wisconsin-La Crosse, advanced rapidly last summer and finished his first pro season with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. He hit .321 with a .360 on-base percentage with Class A Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore.

Overview: Right field is Renfroe's.