TDG’s Triple Play: Boston Red Sox!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Darwinzon Hernandez, Age: 24, Position: RP
Analysis by: Paul Monte
The goal for me with the Triple Play is to look for players that you haven’t already seen a good deal of coverage on. I’m not looking for bad players, just guys that are more important to deeper leagues that do not get the headlines. I always start with the rotation when it’s pitchers that I am covering. I did that in Boston as well; it’s boring. It’s the baseball card that you skip right by when opening your pack. “I remember him, he was good once.” Next up is the closer, there have to be some interesting arms there, right? Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino were said to be battling it out for the closer role; does it get more exciting than that? Barnes tested positive (maybe?) for Covid on March 26th and might miss opening day. That opens the door for someone to move up the ladder in the bullpen. Matt Andriese moves into the 8th inning setup slot followed by Hirokazu Sawamura. It’s the name after that who has me interested, Darwinzon Hernandez.
Started From the Bottom
Hernandez signed with Boston as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. He signed in August after the top names like Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, and Rafael Devers were long gone. The bonus was small and he was on his way to the DSL which he debuted in as a 17-year-old in 2014. It wasn’t until he reached the upper minors in 2018 that Boston had given up on the idea of Hernandez starting and transitioned him to a bullpen role. As a fastball/slider pitcher the move was inevitable, but the fact that the control issues never improved throughout his minor league career was likely the determining factor. Guys with great stuff and no control are common in the bullpen. There is so much raw skill that it’s hard not to get excited about a player who averaged over a strikeout per inning in his 400+ minor league innings (most as a starter). It’s the 248 walks that he handed out that are the giant grey clouds hovering above his head. His major league career has been more of the same but with the transition to the pen, his K/9 has grown to ridiculous levels. 70 strikeouts in 38.2 MLB innings is good for a 16.3 K/9. Then there is the “but,” the BB/9 is just under 8 (7.9). His WHIP is 1.707 and he has walked 34 batters and hit 4, just about one free pass per inning.
Walk on the Wild Side
Guys like Hernandez are always tough to figure out. The upside is incredible, if he could just figure out the control issues and cut down the walks, he could easily become one of the game’s best relievers. The problem is even when you find yourself in the position to take over the closer role, like James Karinchak in Cleveland, real-life managers do not want to keep you there if you continue to allow baserunners. He has more value in a Holds league as he will be the late-inning lefthander for the Red Sox and he could easily find himself closing out games at the end of the season should the Red Sox start unloading their vets like Barnes and Ottavino at the deadline. I’m a sucker for upside and have started picking up Hernandez in my Holds leagues and even a couple H2H Points leagues where I missed out on the closers.
Hunter Renfroe, Age: 29, Position: OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Renfroe had an awful 2020 with the Rays (a .141 BABIP did not help) and it has been said that the Rays are so good at acquiring and identifying talent that if they stink in Tampa, they will stink everywhere (not sure if they’re talking about Tampa the city as well but I’ve been enough times I could believe it). Well this off-season Boston saw something in Renfroe and he is going to reward them handsomely. They signed him 18 days after his release from Tampa (on November 26th, 2020) to a $3 million, one-year deal. When a team signs a guy that quickly, and there is no competition for a starting job, we should all take notice. When they play him all spring with the starters, we should all take notice. When the manager says Renfroe can also play centerfield, we should all take notice. However, projection systems have not, so let us use that to our advantage.
First, a little History
The Red Sox finally got their man after drafting him in the 31st round back in 2010, and although he did not sign back then, he had a great college career at Mississippi State and was drafted by the Padres in the first round with the 13th overall selection three years later. After spending his first few professional seasons climbing the minor league ladder, Renfroe made his major league debut in 2016. It was a small cup-of-coffee, with a little longer look in 2017, before he became a regular in 2018.
Remember back when we were younger and Renfroe was hitting bombs over the factory building in San Diego; a thing of beauty, that is. Those of us who play OPS leagues salivated at Renfroe getting consistent at-bats, and San Diego gave him a chance- three seasons worth in fact. While Renfroe had those three seasons of at least 441 plate appearances from 2017-2019, he only hit 26, 26, and 33 home runs, respectively, which was not enough during the home run boom of the last few seasons to prevent San Diego from moving on and trading him to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019. Depending on how Xavier Edwards turns out, the Padres may have already won that trade, acquiring Jake Cronenworth and Tommy Pham in exchange for the aforementioned Edwards, Renfroe and minor leaguer Esteban Quiroz.
Renfroe’s last season in San Diego he played hurt most of the second half, with an elbow injury and an ankle injury that caused him to miss time that September. While I said at the top his 2020 was awful overall, there were some bright spots. In the playoffs he hit a grand-slam to help eliminate the Baby Blue Jays and a home run in the World Series against the Dodgers. He had the highest walk rate of his career (10.1 %) and a slightly above league average strikeout rate of 26%, which was down from the previous season. That .141 BABIP really did him in, because he still hit eight home runs and even stole a couple of bases with 40 combined Runs and RBI in only 139 plate appearances.
Ready for 2021? Yessiree, Bob
Sporting a new spring beard (probably happy he didn’t have to go with the facial hairless Yankees) Renfroe has always hit lefties well and while he does not have a high average against righties, the power is there. As an extreme pull hitter, Renfroe seems perfectly fit for Fenway and that is going to result in a lot of doubles and moon shots over the Green Monster. Not a free agent until 2024, Renfroe has the opportunity to stay in Boston at least the next couple of seasons.
Renfroe is an above-average defender in right field, so he does not need to fight it out for DH at-bats. He is going to have a .255 average at the very best, so he needs to produce in the other categories big time. Renfroe has hit sixth most of spring training, behind JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers, so big RBI numbers are coming; the guys behind him are no slouches either, so his Run total should be respectable as well. I have him finishing 2021 with 80 Runs, 40 home runs, 120 RBI, 5-ish steals, and a slash line of .250/.315/.505. With a Yahoo ADP of 242 and NFBC of 420, there is little risk involved of stashing Renfroe with a late pick, or even monitoring him on waivers, but do not wait too long to add him to your team once he starts knocking in runs with regularity.
Jarren Duran, Age: 24, Position: OF, Level: Triple-A
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Far From Ordinary
Duran has always been an extraordinary runner. He has always reliably hit for average. He has always played decent defense, both at second base in college, and in the outfield in the minor leagues. What sets him apart is that he still has all of those skills and now he absolutely mashes the ball. In 41 spring at-bats this year, he hit 2 home runs, 3 doubles and a triple, good for a .561 slugging. He’s the total package.
Hungry Like the Sea Dog
Is there anything Duran can’t do dodo do dodo do dodo do dodo do do do? After being drafted out of Long Beach State in the 7th round of the 2018 draft, he hit .348, .367, then .387 in his first 3 stints in pro ball before ascending to the Double-A level halfway through 2019 with the Portland Sea Dogs. He went through what most would describe as a slump, but really he hit .250 in his first crack at that level, just a year removed from being an amateur. Considering his “inflated” strikeout rate was still under 24%, it wasn’t a terrible showing in a short sample.
What he did after that is why he should have everyone’s attention. While 2020 threw a wrench in the world’s plans, Duran took that time to make himself a more complete player. He shortened his swing while at the alternate site, playing up his athleticism. This improved bat speed and near perfect launch angle have joined forces with his impressive bat-to-ball skills to make him a must-watch when he’s in the batter’s box.
Save a Player
Duran has already been reassigned out of major league camp this spring, and will presumably start at Triple-A. This is an unfortunate consequence of the Red Sox admitting defeat before the season begins. Were it not for service time, Duran has shown the skill and demonstrated the performance worthy of being in the major league. He will be roaming centerfield for this team by the end of May, though, and will be a mainstay for years to come. While just about anybody would be at least a slight downgrade defensively from Jackie Bradley Jr., Jarren Duran is the perfect player to fill those shoes. With his incredible speed and emerging power, he could become what Red Sox fans dreamed Jacoby Ellsbury would be for them if he had stayed healthy. 25 home runs, 40 steals, a .300 average and a fair share of MVP votes are within reach. The only thing he needs is a chance to prove it!
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