Ryan Boyer

Draft Strategy

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New Ballpark, New Hitter?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


What’s the lineup around him like? Where’s he hitting in the batting order? Is he moving to a new league? These are all important factors when deciding the fantasy value of a player that’s changed teams. However, no factor is more important than the new park he’s playing in.

 

For some of the players that changed addresses over the offseason, their hitter-friendly new park could result in an uptick in their fantasy value. Other players’ moves to cavernous parks could have the opposite effect on their value. We’ll be examining both types of players here.

 

*Keep in mind that we’ll only be discussing players whose new parks are dramatically different than the one they called home in 2011. Josh Willingham, for example, landed in pitcher-friendly Target Field, but he left fellow pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, thus, he doesn’t appear on this list.

 

Good Moves


Michael Cuddyer, OF/1B, Rockies

Most expected Cuddyer to wind up re-signing with the Twins this offseason, but landing in Colorado should be a boon for his fantasy value. Target Field has been among the worst parks for offense in the American League since its doors opened in 2010, while Coors Field has easily been the most hitter-friendly park in baseball over the last few years despite the introduction of the humidor. Cuddyer might not be able to break his previous career high of 32 longballs, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he approached that number.


Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks

Cuddyer’s former teammate, Kubel should also benefit from exiting Minnesota. He has landed at Chase Field, which produced the third-most home runs in the National League last season. Though we don’t see him hitting .300 again, Kubel could come close to the 28 bombs he belted back in 2009. The 29-year-old could be a sneaky late-round addition in mixed leagues.

 

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds

Like many hitters before him, Ludwick floundered during his time in Petco Park, and he wasn’t any better after a trade to the Pirates. He even admitted to messing up his swing while playing in San Diego, as he said he tried to become a “dead-pull hitter.” He should love the new home confines of Great American Ballpark, which produced the most homers in the National League in 2011. Luddy has also slugged .600 there in his career, albeit in a small sample size of 105 at-bats. He’ll have to hold off Chris Heisey, but remember that manager Dusty Baker has always had an affinity for veterans.

 

David DeJesus, OF, Cubs

DeJesus managed a paltry .229/.331/.364 batting line at home during his one year in Oakland. His OPS was actually exactly the same on the road, but his slugging (.386) was significantly higher, and he admitted to dealing with a hand injury for much of the year. A move to Wrigley Field, which was the fifth-best park in the NL for homers last year, should help. DeJesus doesn’t chip in with many steals anymore, and his power will still be modest even in a better home park, but he should be better in single-league formats in 2012.

 

Cody Ross, OF, Red Sox

Other than a brief two-game appearance with the Reds in 2006, Ross has played in pitcher-friendly venues his entire career. That will change in 2012, as his new home is Fenway Park, which is among the better hitting environments in the American League. Ross will see most of his at-bats against left-handers, who he’s mashed to the tune of a .563 slugging percentage in his career. It’s doubtful he’ll churn out mixed league value, but he could turn out to be a nice little AL-only league play.

 

Bad Moves

 

Jesus Montero, C/DH, Mariners

A couple months ago, Montero was destined to be the full-time designated hitter for the Yankees, playing in potent lineup and hitting in a bandbox of a home park. His fantasy prospects take a huge hit with the move to Seattle and Safeco Field, a place that’s been even stingier to offense than Petco Park in recent years. Montero is a good enough talent to overcome a poor hitting environment, but we’re not expecting an offensive explosion in his first full year.

 

Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers

Fielder posted an OPS of .965 at Miller Park during his career, as opposed to an .896 mark on the road. He’ll also be adjusting to a new league, which can often take time. And, while Comerica Park has played much more hitter-friendly in recent years, it’s been most beneficial to right-handed batters, who have enjoyed the cozier dimensions in left field. Prince will be fine, but a slight drop in his home run total should be expected.

 

Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres

Quentin grew up in southern California, so he was probably happy to make the move to San Diego in an offseason trade. But, he’s going to one of the better parks for hitters in the American League to one of the worst in all of baseball, so his power numbers are sure to shrink. The good news is that Petco is typically tougher on left-handed batters than those that hit from the right side.

 

Chris Iannetta, C, Angels

Not surprisingly, Iannetta enjoyed hitting at Coors Field a great deal, sporting a career .262/.377/.492 batting line there. His .707 career OPS on the road isn’t bad, especially for a catcher, and Angel Stadium isn’t as rough on right-handed batters, so that helps. A drop-off in his slugging percentage at home is a near certainty, though.

 

Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays

I decided to go ahead and list Pena here, because he fits the criteria of moving from a hitter-friendly park in 2012 to a decidedly pitcher-friendly venue in 2011. But, it’s hard to be too worried given the prior success he’s had at Tropicana Field. The 33-year-old sports a .953 OPS there in his career, and his 28 homers and 80 RBI from 2011 would have been on the low end of what to expect when he played half his games at The Trop. I’d draft him where you normally would.

 

Yonder Alonso, 1B, Padres

The trade of Alonso to the Padres was actually a very good thing for his fantasy prospects for 2012, but that’s only because he wasn’t going to be a regular in Cincinnati and will be in San Diego. The bad news, of course, is that Petco Park is a hitter’s graveyard, and it’s especially tough on left-handed power. Plus, there are also questions about just how much power Alonso will produce at the major league level, as his home run totals in the minors haven’t been anything special. Don’t expect mixed league value from him in 2012.

 

Luke Scott, OF/DH, Rays

Scott suffered through a lackluster 2011 campaign in Baltimore, as he saw his numbers plummet while he tried to play through a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. He landed a full-time DH gig with the Rays, but he’ll be going from a relatively neutral park at Camden Yards to one that’s among the toughest in the AL for hitters, especially those that bat from the left side. That, combined with the fact that he’s coming back from shoulder surgery, makes him a risky fantasy proposition.

 

Seth Smith, OF, Athletics

Smith was given a career-high 533 plate appearances in 2011, and while his .284/.347/.483 batting line was pretty nice, his 15 longballs were a bit of a disappointment for a guy that slugged two more in 135 fewer trips to the plate the previous season. It’s a discouraging development for Smith given that he’s making a move from the best hitter’s park in baseball to one of the worst. He should be in the lineup most days in 2012, but don’t consider him mixed league material.



Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.
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