Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: Hunter Renfroe connects

·5-min read

Fenway Park has long been a misunderstood park.

It’s not really a great place for home runs, but it’s a great place for offense. There’s almost no foul territory, the hitter’s eye is favorable, and the park is made for lots of doubles and mayhem.

So I’m always looking to get some Boston bats into my fantasy lineups. And this year’s Red Sox lineup has been worth the time. Although Boston is a modest 11th in home runs, the Red Sox rank third in runs, third in average, and third in slugging. (And to be fair, they've been good on the road, too.)

Even in a post-Mookie world, the Red Sox can hurt you.

The underappreciated piece of this offense is Hunter Renfroe. He’s settled in as the team’s right fielder, and bats fifth or sixth in this deep lineup. He cracked two more homers Monday, upping his average to .272. He’s currently ranked No. 35 among all outfield-eligible players in 5x5 value.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 27: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox rolls after catching a fly ball hit by Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on June 27, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Hunter Renfroe is catching on in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Before the year we knew Renfroe as a boom-and-bust guy, a power hitter who would also strike out a lot, and likely hit for a poor average. He’s made strides to get the swing-and-miss out of his game, trimming his strikeout rate down to 21.6 percent, slightly better than league average. And the increased contact hasn’t come at a price, as his hard-hit metrics are all on the right side of the bar. The connections are still loud, there’s just more of them.

If you’re looking for Renfroe rentals in the DFS space, note his career OPS is 226 points higher against the lefties. He’s also shown a road tilt in 2021, perhaps not comfortable with Fenway yet. But the way Renfroe is swinging right now, I’ll use him against anyone. He’s enjoying a career year at age 29, and he’s merely rostered in about a third of Yahoo leagues.

While Renfroe quickly won me over, I’m struggling with Enrique Hernandez. He’s been versatile, bouncing all around the field, and the Red Sox give him regular time in the leadoff slot; valuable real estate. But Hernandez is striking out a ton and his batting average has been under .240 most of the year.

Perhaps Hernandez can get some traction going after homering the last two games. Although a .234/.296/.417 slash doesn’t scream leadoff man — it doesn’t even say starter — the Red Sox seem to believe in Hernandez, and he’s been productive lately. Over the last 20 games, Hernandez has 10 runs scored and 11 RBIs. Perhaps I’ll hold my nose, take the occasional homer, and appreciate the positions he covers.

Hernandez is rostered in 17 percent of Yahoo leagues.

The market has come around on Nathan Eovaldi, the ace of the Boston staff, though he’s still unrostered in about half of Yahoo leagues. Eovaldi’s 3.67 ERA and 1.24 WHIP would play in most mixed leagues, and he’s been a little unlucky — FIP suggests a 2.63 ERA. He’s getting 4.4 strikeouts for every walk.

Eovaldi’s made 11 of his 16 starts at home, a fluke of scheduling. His ERA is almost a full run lower on the road. He’ll host Kansas City later this week, then take a trip to Orange County. His roster tag should probably be 20-25 percent higher.

Which way on Zach Thompson? 

My Sunday free-agent offers were aggressive as I looked to roster Zach Thompson, Miami’s emerging right-handed pitcher. Nonetheless, I came up short. Those 11-strikeout games tend to get noticed. Thompson now has 18 innings at the MLB level: 12 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 25 K. Without knowing anything further, that’s a buy.

Okay, you might get cold feet if you examine the resume. Thompson is a 27-year-old journeyman, with a career minor-league log of 4.11/1.39. Although his BB/K rate in Triple-A was sterling this year, his ERA was over six. And yet, walks and strikeouts are still the invisible hand that drives so many of our decisions. We can at least be intrigued, right?

If Thompson is going to stick, we should know quickly. He’ll be tested by the Braves and Dodgers over his next two starts.

Wilmer Flores needed by the bay 

Wilmer Flores was one deeper-league grab I clicked on during the last offer period. He’s not for all shallow leagues — he plays about 75 percent of the time for the Giants. But with some San Francisco injuries and Flores’ heating bat and defensive versatility, maybe that participation will go up.

Flores had four hits in Monday’s loss to the Dodgers, and he’s on a nifty .388/.404/.696 binge over the last two weeks, with four homers. He’s only struck out twice in that stretch, a man locked in.

Flores’ best game shows against left-handers; he has a career .500 slugging in the platoon advantage. San Francisco draws a lefty-heavy schedule next week. Flores covers all the infield bases in Yahoo and is free to grab in 81 percent of leagues.

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