Prospect Retrospective: Edgar Renteria
Veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria announced his retirement last week. You know you're getting old when you remember the ancient retiring veteran struggling as a teenager in A-ball. I'm clearly getting old, but my memory is still good and Renteria was quite the big deal as a prospect way back in the 1990s.
Edgar Enrique Renteria Herazo was signed by the Florida Marlins as a free agent out of Colombia in 1992. His birthday was listed as August 7th, 1976 in some sources, which would make him only 15 years old when he made his pro debut in 1992. MLB lists his birthday as August 7, 1975, but of course that was still plenty young.
A raw bundle of tools, he made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Marlins that summer, hitting .288/.329/.350 in 43 games with an 8/29 BB/K ratio in 163 at-bats. He was understandably raw; he made 25 errors in 41 games for example, but overall he held his own against older competition, and the tools were evident. He was ranked third in the GCL Top 10 Prospects List by Baseball America that fall. Nowadays a similar prospect would probably get a Grade C+ "with higher potential" grade from me.
Renteria moved up to Kane County in the Midwest League for 1993. He was completely overmatched at the plate, hitting .203/.268/.232 (that's right, .232 SLG).
He drew 35 walks against 94 strikeouts in 384 at-bats, which really wasn't as bad as it could have been given his total inability to drive the ball. Scouting reports emphasized his youth, athleticism, and defensive ability. Indeed, he made a lot of progress with his glovework, cutting his error rate sharply (34 in 114 games) while showing shortstop-quality arm strength and range. The bat was really bad, but he was also very young for the competition. A high-ceiling C or C+ would still have been appropriate. He didn't appear on the BA Midwest League top prospect list.
The Marlins moved Renteria up to Brevard County in the Florida State League for 1994. He improved a bit with the bat, hitting .253/.307/.292, still lacking power, but showing a better knack for contact, fanning just 56 times in 439 at-bats (with 35 walks). Reviews of his glove remained positive and he continued to lower his error rate. There was enough progress with the bat to still rate in the high-ceiling C or C+ range, as a very young guy with tools and some improvements in his game if you looked hard enough.
The breakthrough occurred in 1995. Renteria moved up to Double-A and had an impressive season for Portland in the Eastern League, hitting .289/.329/.388, setting career minor league highs in batting average and slugging percentage. Previously passive as a runner, he also stole 30 bases. He had a few glitches on defense and made 33 errors, but continued to draw strong reviews for his glove potential. He was still only 19/20 years old and the improvement in Double-A was clear. I gave him a Grade B+ entering 1996.
Renteria made his major league debut with the Marlins in 1996, playing 106 games after being promoted from Triple-A. He was excellent, hitting .309/.358/.399, 103 OPS+, with 16 steals. His defense was impressive and he emerged quickly as one of the best young players in the game, ranking second in National League Rookie of the Year voting and posting a 3.5 WAR.
He was less effective in '97 and '98 (1.4, 1.2 WAR) and considered something of a disappointment in some circles, although his Game Seven heroics in the 1997 World Series were a highlight.
The Marlins traded him to the Cardinals in December '98 (for Armando Almanza, Braden Looper, and Pablo Ozuna). He steadily improved from there, taking a large step forward in 2002 (4.4 WAR), then posting his career year in 2003 (.330/.394/.480, 34 steals, 47 doubles, 100 RBI, 130 OPS+, 6.9 WAR).
That was his best season and Renteria gradually faded from there, though he won another World Series game in 2010 with a three-run homer off Cliff Lee in Game Five for the San Francisco Giants.
Overall, Renteria was a career .286/.343/.398 hitter with 294 career steals, 94 OPS+ and a career WAR of 39.6, collecting 2327 hits.
His Sim Scores put him in the same category with Hall of Fame and borderline players like Alan Trammell, Tony Fernandez, Barry Larkin, Orlando Cabrera, Dick Bartell, Pee Wee Reese, Dave Concepcion, Red Schoendienst, Jimmy Rollins, and Jay Bell. However, Sim Score doesn't adjust for extreme hitting or pitching environments.
If you look at WAR, Renteria ranks in the "Hall of Very Good" neighborhood with guys like Alvin Dark (44.0), Maury Wills (43.7), Nomar Garciaparra (43.2), Dick Groat (41.6), Jay Bell (40.4), and Rafael Furcal (37.7).
Although overshadowed by the big sluggers of the steroid era, Renteria was a very valuable player. He made five All Star games and won two Gold Gloves. He was World Series MVP twice; not bad for a guy who couldn't slug .250 in A-ball.
Upcoming Prospect Retros: Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr, Vida Blue, Edgar Martinez.