June 7, 2013 11:37:31 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe has experienced what he calls the "surreal moment" of being a first-round pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft.
On Thursday, Renfroe was selected 13th by the San Diego Padres, becoming the 12th player in MSU history to be taken in the first round.
"It's pure elation for me and my family," Renfroe said. "It's just such a surreal feeling to hear your name called and realize you're a first-round draft pick in professional baseball."
Last year, the San Francisco Giants used the 20th pick to select 2012 Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Chris Stratton.
"I had my girlfriend, my parents, my grandparents, and a lot of friends around me when I was drafted," Renfroe said. "I was so happy to be able to share this experience with so many different people I care deeply about. It was a wonderful thing to have them around."
After struggling in his first two seasons at MSU, Renfroe finished the 2013 regular season as the SEC's leader with 15 home runs. He also has the league's second-best slugging percentage (.634) and is among the league leaders in batting average (.352), on-base percentage (.440), RBIs (58), hits (80), runs scored (51), and total bases (144). Renfroe was a first-team All-America selection by Louisville Slugger and a first-team All-SEC pick by the coaches this season.
"I had a feeling it would be San Diego, and the more and more I started thinking about it, the more and more I got excited about playing in their organization and being a Padre one day," Renfroe said in a phone interview Thursday night.
Renfroe was a semifinalist for the USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and the NCBWA's Dick Howser Trophy, which are given to the nation's top collegiate player. He also was the first SEC player to be taken in the draft, which was broadcast live on MLB Network.
"The entire Bulldog family is so proud of Hunter," MSU coach John Cohen said. "He's been one of our hardest workers and has come a long way in a short period of time. Hunter is very deserving of the distinction of being a first-round draft pick."
Renfroe gained confidence in his power the past two seasons playing in the Cal Ripken League, a wood-bat summer league, where he hit a league-record 19 home runs last summer, which prompted the Bethesda (Md.) Big Train to retire his jersey. Perfect Game USA, a national scouting service, named Renfroe the league's top prospect last summer after he hit .364 with 57 RBIs.
"That's the thing I really think I'm going to enjoy the most about professional baseball," Renfroe said. "The bats we use right now are junk. They just are. The ball doesn't carry off of them and the balls are as tightly wound as they are in summer ball and in minor leagues. I'll be able to translate the power immediately if not better with the wood at the next level."
Scouts consider Renfroe a five-tool player who can run, hit, hit for power, defend his position, and throw with power from the outfield. Renfroe, who will be represented in contract negotiations by Bo McKinnis, is projected as a player who could move quickly through a organization's minor league system.
The first two rounds of the draft were Thursday. Rounds 3-10 will be today, while rounds 11-40 will be Saturday. Renfroe and the MSU coaches believe being picked before the team's NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional series against No. 6 national seed University of Virginia could be the best thing for the squad. MSU and Virginia will play game one of the best-of-three series at 12:05 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) in Charlottesville, Va.
"It feels better to get the draft out of the way," Renfroe said. "I can now focus on Virginia and the goal of getting to Omaha. There's no worrying about the Padres, and I can just relax now that this is all over."
Renfroe, who is from Crystal Springs and was an All-State player at Copiah Academy, is the fourth-highest Bulldog selection in the draft. Will Clark was taken second in 1985, B.J. Wallace was the third pick in 1992, and current Atlanta Braves pitcher Paul Maholm was the eighth selection of the 2003 draft. He is a two-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection, and last month he received the C Spire Ferriss Trophy as the Mississippi collegiate player of the year. In the past two weekends, he was named to the all-tournament teams at the SEC tournament and the NCAA Starkville Regional.
MSU had back-to-back-to-back first-round draft selections in 1992 (B.J. Wallace), 1993 (Jay Powell), and 1994 (Carlton Loewer).