Trade targets: Acquire Reynolds
Tracking offseason player movement is crucial for fantasy owners looking to gain a competitive edge when a power hitter moves into a more offense-friendly environment or when a pitcher gets an opportunity to move to a more spacious park such as Petco Park in San Diego or McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.
Of the impact players who changed teams this offseason, Adrian Gonzalez is the first that comes to mind with his arrival in Boston after an excellent five-year run with the Padres to begin his career. This time last year, fantasy owners could reliably scoop up Gonzalez after the first 30 picks were off the board on draft day. This year, his Average Draft Position soared to the point where he was a consensus top-10 selection.
Skills-wise, he didn't show any significant signs of growth in 2010, so the increased price tag is entirely driven by the improved lineup around him in Boston and the escape from Petco.
The Bill James Handbook annually dedicates a section of its publication to calculating the Park Indices around the league – taking the home runs hit by home and visiting teams in each of the league's 30 ballparks and comparing those numbers to what the same teams hit elsewhere. The results are then adjusted for unequal numbers of at-bats to prevent the results from being skewed before the final number is multiplied by 100 to generate a familiar form.
A park that yields an index of 100 is considered neutral, and the deviation from that point provides us with varying degrees of how “power-friendly” or “power-suppressing” any particular park might be. Since weather and other factors can vary from year-to-year, The Handbook analyzes the data both from the previous year and in combination with the previous two seasons as part of a three-year view to get a better long-term measure of how each park plays.
Beginning with the Gonzalez example above, consider that he is leaving a home park that has generated an index of 59 for left-handed power hitters from 2008-10. That means, it is 41 percent more difficult for a lefty to hit a home run in San Diego than at a perfectly neutral park. Knowing that, let's take a quick look at his home-road splits from the last three seasons.
Home – .257/.384/.439 with 37 HR over 832 at-bats (one HR in every 22.5 AB)
Away – .310/.390/.599 with 70 HR over 927 at-bats (one HR in every 13.2 AB)
No home park is worse for left-handed power than Petco, so anything would be considered an upgrade for Gonzalez. Fenway Park has checked in at 88 over the last three seasons – 12 percent below neutral, but nearly 30 percent better than Petco during that same period.
Of course, the upgrade for Gonzalez is already built into his 2011 price tag, but here's a look at a few other hitters moving into more favorable home parks this season where there could be more profit potential. Consider these players as early trade targets.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, BAL – Missing the boat at third base this year can be very costly. Fortunately, Reynolds is a viable middle-round option even after hitting. 198 for the D-Backs last season and declining in all five standard rotisserie categories. Reynolds played through a variety of injuries in 2010, including quad, wrist and hand ailments in addition to a concussion. The slipping contact rate (58 percent last season) is a concern, but his raw power potential is off the charts and he's only one year removed from a career-high 44 homers. Already coming from a hitter-friendly home park in Chase Field (106 for right-handed power), Reynolds will enjoy Camden Yards even more (121) during his first season in Baltimore.
Carlos Pena, 1B, CHC – Leaving Tropicana Field (92 for left-handed home runs) for Wrigley Field (120) gives Pena an excellent chance to rebound back into the 30-homer club. His batting average has tumbled in each of the last three seasons, but the .196 mark he delivered in 2010 should be the ultimate floor. When Pena puts the ball in the air, good things happen (career 20.5% HR/FB rate) and last season, he hit a career-high 146 groundballs. As long as Pena is able to get the ball in the air again consistently, his transition to the National League should be a smooth one.
Russell Martin, C, NYY – Yankee Stadium won't mitigate the injury risk he carries, but Martin's tailspin since an excellent 2007 season with the Dodgers (.293, 19 HR, 87 RBI, 21 SB) may have been the byproduct of an extremely heavy workload behind the plate. Dodger Stadium is tough for right-handed power hitters (87) while his new home park is a much better environment (124). Even in a 400-450 at-bat season, Martin might surprise and return to his previous double-digit home run totals. In addition to the improved home park, he'll be a part of an elite lineup that should yield better RBI and runs scored counts.
Juan Rivera, OF, TOR – While most attention paid to the Vernon Wells deal was focused on Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos shedding one of the worst contracts in baseball, Rivera was quietly shipped to Toronto in the process. His defensive flaws in the outfield are less of a concern with the Jays' decision to make him the regular designated hitter as part of their adjusted defensive alignment. Further, his free-swinging approach fits well at Rogers Centre where right-handed power (116) is certainly more hitter friendly than Angel Stadium (102). Looking for a cheap source of .270/20/75? Rivera is certainly capable of delivering those numbers even if he's forced to yield the occasional start or two.