Summer Collegiate : : Story
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cal Ripken Lg. Prospect Reports

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Cal Ripken League
Official League Website
Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League top 30 prospects (list)
Perfect Game Summer Collegiate top prospect coverage

Hunter Renfroe was selected the Cal Ripken League’s top prospect in 2011 on the strength of his ability to hit tape-measure home runs as a power-hitting catcher, while lighting up radar guns to the tune of 98-99 mph as a strong-armed relief pitcher.

Even with a move this summer to center field in his return to the Bethesda Big Train, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Renfroe was so dominant that he only enhanced his standing as the league’s No. 1 prospect. He set a league record for home runs before the 2012 season was barely half over, and established numerous other offensive records. The Cal Ripken League, as a whole, was one of a number of summer leagues to witness a pronounced spike in home runs this summer, jumping from 287 to 469, but few if any of Renfroe’s blasts were artificially aided by a souped-up baseball in use this summer.

As dominant a season as the Mississippi State product had, though, it was not enough to lift the Big Train, the nation’s No. 1-ranked summer-league team in 2011, to a fourth-straight league title. The Big Train managed to win 19 of 20 games in one mid-season stretch when it was running on all cylinders and Renfroe was on fire, but it otherwise had little to show for the 2012 season from a team perspective.

Bethesda’s chances of winning another regular-season title was essentially doomed by a slow start when the team was missing several key players, including Renfroe, and its hopes for a post-season crown were all but dashed with the loss of several key arms late in the season. A blue-collar Rockville Express unexpectedly finished first during the season, while the Baltimore Redbirds were victorious in the playoffs, beating the Big Train 4-3 in the deciding game of the league’s championship series—even as Renfroe launched a two-run homer, his third in three playoff games.

Symbolic of their final-game showdown, Baltimore and Bethesda dominated the accompanying list of the league’s top 30 prospects, with 15 selections between them. The Redbirds outnumbered the Big Train, 8-7, but there was a significant gap between Renfroe, a likely first-rounder in the 2013 draft, and the rest of the field.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: Maryland, Virginia.
No. of Teams in League: 10 (9 in 2011).
Regular-Season Champion: Rockville Express (30-11).
Post-Season Champion: Baltimore Redbirds.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 9 Baltimore Redbirds; No. 30 Rockville Express; No. 42 Bethesda Big Train.
No. 1 Prospect, 2011 (per PG CrossChecker): Hunter Renfroe, c/rhp, Bethesda Big Train (Mississippi; played for Bethesda Big Train in 2012).
First 2011 Player Selected, 2012 Draft: Martin Agosta, rhp, Bethesda Big Train (St. Mary’s, Calif./Giants, 2nd round).

Most Valuable Player:
Hunter Renfroe, of, Bethesda Big Train.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Corey Taylor, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds.
Top Prospect (as selected by league): Hunter Renfroe, of, Bethesda Big Train.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Bret Williams, 1b, Vienna River Dogs (.433).
Slugging Percentage: Hunter Renfroe, of, Bethesda Big Train (.866).
On-Base Average: James Vasquez, 1b, Herndon Braves (.552).
Home Runs: Hunter Renfroe, of, Bethesda Big Train (16).
RBIs: Hunter Renfroe, of, Bethesda Big Train (53).
Stolen Bases: Bill Root, of, Southern Maryland Nationals (27).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Corey Taylor, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds; Joe Vanderplas, lhp, Vienna River Dogs (6).
ERA: Corey Taylor, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds (2.76).
Saves: Joe Harvey, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds (6).
Strikeouts: Connor Bach, lhp, Vienna River Dogs (56).


Best Athlete:
K.J. Hockaday, 3b/ss, Youse’s Maryland Orioles
Best Hitter: Brendan Hendriks, 3b, Bethesda Big Train
Best Power: Hunter Renfroe, of/c, Bethesda Big Train
Fastest Base Runner: Brendan Butler, of, Youse’s Maryland Orioles
Best Defensive Player: Patrick Blair, ss/2b, Baltimore Redbirds
Best Velocity: Hunter Renfroe, of/rhp, Bethesda Big Train
Best Breaking Ball: Corey Taylor, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds
Best Command: Corey Taylor, rhp, Baltimore Redbirds


1. HUNTER RENFROE, of/c/rhp, Bethesda Big Train (Mississippi State/JR in 2013)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Renfroe holds the distinction of being ranked the Cal Ripken League’s No. 1 prospect in consecutive years, even as he spent 2011 for Bethesda as mostly a catcher and relief pitcher, and 2012 as a center fielder. He is viewed as a legitimate big-league prospect at all three positions. His versatility and prolific power approach in multiple phases of his game speak to his athleticism and set him apart from any other prospect in the 2013 draft class. He has prodigious power at the plate, both for distance and frequency. Many of his league-record 16 homers this summer were tape-measure shots, and often came in clusters. He set the mark by homering four times in a two-day period, and went deep in all three playoff games to extend his total on the summer to 19 in just 39 games. On his way to also establishing a league record for RBIs in a season with 53 (10 more than the previous mark), he drove in four or more runs in a game five times. Overall, he hit .366 and posted a gaudy .866 slugging average, yet another league record. A year ago, as a seldom-used freshman out of Mississippi State, Renfroe hit .305-8-30 with a league-best .581 slugging average in the Ripken League. Those totals were achieved largely in his dual role as the Big Train’s primary catcher and part-time reliever, and his move this summer to center field, a less-demanding position defensively that he played flawlessly, enabled him to focus on the offensive side of his game after he hit just .252-4-25, with a team-high 16 doubles, as a sophomore at Mississippi State, where he was forced to adapt to the school’s hit-and-run style of offense. Allowed the freedom to just swing the bat unencumbered this summer, Renfroe went on an offensive explosion. Not only did he greatly expand on his spring numbers in his return engagement to the Big Train, but he made adjustments to tighten the holes in his set-up and approach in the process. He learned to stop pulling off everything and started hitting breaking balls with more authority to all fields, and also exhibited better plate discipline (26 BB/28 SO in summer, 21 BB/51 SO in spring), though his massive swing looked especially raw on those occasions when he would swing-and-miss at pitches. With 6.6 second speed in the 60 and a powerful throwing arm, Renfroe has the basic tools to play center field at the pro level, but may actually be a better fit in the long run as a right fielder for those big-league teams that may profile him as an outfielder. With arm strength that equates to an 80 on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, enabling him to coincidentally peak at 98-99 mph off a mound in short bursts, and record pop times as low as 1.7-1.75 seconds behind the plate, Renfroe’s upside may be greatest as a pitcher or catcher. But he didn’t pitch at all as a sophomore at Mississippi State and worked in just two brief appearances for the Big Train (2-1/3 IP, 5 SO), and also played sparingly behind the plate in the spring and summer. He’ll need to expand his playing time next spring at either or both positions to be considered a legitimate prospect at either, as he has had limited time over the last year to improve his receiving and blocking skills behind the plate, and develop a second pitch on the mound, though he has shown the makings of an impressive slider in limited looks in the past. It’s a given that Renfroe’s power, arm strength and speed are all superior tools. Ultimately his ability to develop his catching skills may determine whether he is groomed as a catcher or outfielder, and his ability to evolve into a more-complete hitter may determine whether he becomes a position player or pitcher. In a perfect world, his greatest upside and quickest path to the big leagues would be as a catcher.

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