D.J. Short

Draft Strategy

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Park Factors

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Turner Field (Braves) - 102
Nationals Park (Nationals) - 100
Kauffman Stadium (Royals) - 100

Now we're getting into more neutral parks. Turner Field has traditionally played pretty fair, but it has slightly favored hitters over the past couple of seasons. However, the Bill James Handbook notes that it has been in the bottom-third in the NL over the past three seasons for right-handed power, which is worth noting with the newly-acquired Justin Upton leaving Chase Field behind. I still think he's worth a second-round pick in standard mixed leagues, though.

Another NL East venue, Nationals Park has consistently played close to neutral since its inaugural season in 2008, though there is a slight advantage for right-handed power. It doesn't favor pitchers as much as Angel Stadium, but Dan Haren's strikeout rate should get a nice boost thanks to the league switch. Of course, health is the big key with him.

Kauffman Stadium is a below average power park from both sides of the plate, but its spacious outfield leads to plenty of doubles and triples. While it's not as pitcher-friendly as Tropicana Field, at least James Shields won't have to face AL East foes like the Yankees and Red Sox as often.  

Marlins Park (Marlins) - 100
Minute Maid Park (Astros) - 99
Wrigley Field (Cubs) - 98

We only have one year of data with the taxpayer-funded Marlins Park, so we'll need more time to see how it truly plays, but its huge dimensions were frustrating for hitters in 2012. ESPN's Park Factors had it as the fifth-most difficult place to homer in last season while the Bill James Handbook had it as the second-most difficult. Fortunately for fantasy owners, Giancarlo Stanton could hit it out of the Grand Canyon.

Minute Maid Park still has the perception as a hitter-friendly park, mostly due to the Crawford Boxes in left field, but it has trended from neutral to slightly pitcher-friendly in recent years. Unfortunately, I don't see the Astros scoring enough runs to make any of their starting pitchers a worthwhile addition in standard mixed leagues.

You might be surprised to see Wrigley Field this low, but it has fluctuated from pitcher-friendly to hitter-friendly during its history. After favoring offense for almost a decade, it has played somewhat pitcher-friendly over the past couple of years. That's an encouraging development for Scott Baker as he tries to reestablish his value following Tommy John surgery.

Busch Stadium (Cardinals) - 98
O.co Coliseum (Athletics) - 97
Target Field (Twins) - 97

Busch Stadium has consistently been slightly-pitcher friendly since opening in 2006. It's close to the league average for left-handed power, but it remains one of the most difficult places for right-handed batters to hit home runs. Interestingly, the Bill James Handbook notes that it has produced the most foul outs of any National League stadium over the past three seasons. That's a nice little bonus for pitchers. If (or when) top prospect Shelby Miller gets a chance, look out.

Speaking of a place with lots of foul territory, O.co Coliseum checks in next on our list. Given the stadium's history, I was bit skeptical when it was a neutral park two years ago, but sure enough, it has trended back to pitcher-friendly. This is the toughest place in the AL for lefty power and not much better for righties. Of course, that didn't bother Yoenis Cespedes last year, as he had 10 homers and a .924 OPS in Oakland.

We now have three years of data at Target Field, and while it was 12th in home runs allowed in 2012, it has mostly played pitcher-friendly. It continues to suppress power from the left side, but right-handed hitters have fared much better, especially last season. It's also been above the league average in producing hits, doubles, triples and walks. Trevor Plouffe and Darin Mastroianni may turn out to be nice values in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.  

Citi Field (Mets) - 96
Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) - 96
Tropicana Field (Rays) - 94

After Citi Field averaged a major-league low 1.43 home runs per game from 2009-2011, the Mets made some changes last offseason by lowering the left field wall from 16 feet to eight feet and bringing in the right-center field fence by 17 feet and the left-center field fence by 13 feet. It made a difference from a power perspective, as 155 homers (or 1.91 per game) were hit there last year, including 46 which wouldn't have been home runs in the previous three years of the stadium. This resulted in four extra homers for David Wright. However, offense was down overall, potentially because the decreased surface area in the outfield led to easier outs. Of course, we may need a couple more years to see if it was just an aberration. But it's worth watching.

Dodger Stadium was slightly-hitter friendly for a blip 2006 and 2007, but the pitchers have regained the edge in recent seasons. Doubles and triples are hard to come by, but this is actually an above-average environment for home runs. This is especially true with left-handed batters, so I'm optimistic for a power rebound from Adrian Gonzalez in 2013. The deep-pocketed Dodgers did about $100 million worth of renovations during the offseason, during which they added about six feet of extra foul territory in front of the dugouts, so this can only be good news for pitchers.

Few parks have limited offense more than Tropicana Field in recent seasons. While it appears conducive to power down the lines, it hasn't worked out that way for hitters from either side of the plate. At least recently, anyway. It also has an expansive stretch of foul territory in the outfield, which comes in handy for pitchers. In fact, the Bill James Handbook notes that Tropicana Field has been the best environment for foul outs over the past three seasons. With those factors in mind, I like Matt Moore and Alex Cobb to both take steps forward this season while Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi might make for interesting fliers in deeper formats.

Progressive Field (Indians) - 93
PNC Park (Pirates) - 93
PETCO Park (Padres) - 92

Progressive Field had a single-season park factor of 105 back in 2007, but it has become increasingly pitcher-friendly in recent seasons. This is one of the most difficult venues in the majors for right-handed power, in part due to the 19-foot high "Little Green Monster" in left field. However, it actually is above-average for left-handed power, so the switch-hitting Nick Swisher might not have as rough a transition as some are expecting.   

We saw A.J. Burnett benefit greatly last season with the move back to the National League and the pitcher-friendly PNC Park. While the deal isn't done quite yet, the Pirates are hoping they'll have similar luck with Francisco Liriano. It's not a bad idea, as PNC Park limits homers and is especially favorable for left-handed pitchers. It might not matter much if Liriano continues to miss the strike zone, but assuming he eventually signs on with Pittsburgh, he's someone I would consider as a late-round flier.

PETCO Park has been just as pitcher-friendly as ever since I last did this column in 2011, but it's going to have a new look this season. The Padres are in the process of altering the dimensions of the stadium, most notably in right field, where the fence will be moved in 11 feet and lowered to eight feet. Left-center field will also get a makeover, as it will be moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet. Perhaps PETCO Park won't be death to left-handed batters anymore, which is a positive development for the likes of Yonder Alonso and Will Venable, but the heavy marine air will likely keep the park from straying too far from its roots.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Angels) - 92
Safeco Field (Mariners) - 90
AT&T Park (Giants) - 88

It wasn't too long ago that "The Big A" slightly favored offense, but check out these single-season park factors since 2007: 105, 100,102, 94, 93, 91. 161 home runs were hit at Angel Stadium last year, which was 14th-most in the majors, so it might be surprising to learn that it actually suppresses home runs. This is especially true with left-handed batters, which is why I'm thinking Josh Hamilton will miss playing half of his games at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Long known as the American League's most-pitcher friendly venue, Safeco Field will also look a little bit different in 2013. The Mariners announced in October that they were changing the dimensions, most notably in the left-center field power alley area, where the fence will be as much as 17 feet closer. The 16-foot-high hand-operated scoreboard down the left-field line will also be moved back, which means the outfield wall will be eight-feet high all around the stadium. The alterations could result in fewer doubles and triples, but it should be seen as a positive for someone like Jesus Montero, who hit just .227 with six homers and a .337 slugging percentage at home last year.

And now we have reached the end of our journey. AT&T Park has taken an interesting path over the years, as it began as pitcher-friendly park when it opened as Pacific Bell Park in 2000, then trended from neutral to slightly-hitter friendly as recently as 2009. However, it has limited offense ever since. There's not much foul territory, so it plays close to fair for singles and doubles, but the Bill James Handbook notes that it has been the toughest home run park in the majors since 2010. Only 84 were hit there last year, 25 fewer than even PETCO Park.

While AT&T Park only measures 309 feet down the right field line, that's balanced out by a 24-foot high wall. Right-center field quickly extends out to 421 feet, so it's a particularly tough venue for left-handed batters. Throw in the cool temperatures and unpredictable winds and it's just not the ideal place for offense. Those expecting a sudden power breakout from Brandon Belt might be disappointed, but Tim Lincecum makes sense as a potential bounce-back candidate.

D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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