Before we get to the heart of the column, where we’ll examine how ballparks affect hitters and pitchers (often depending on handedness), a few quick notes:
Houston goes back to its roots
I’d disregard any recent numbers from Houston, as Minute Maid Park went from the most extreme place for run prevention from 2016-2017 to a hitter’s park last season thanks almost certainly in part to sign stealing. The park is likely to go back to being more pitcher-friendly in 2020 without the home team having the benefit of knowing which pitch is coming.
What can we expect from Rangers’ new home field?
Texas has increased batting average and run-scoring more than any park other than Coors Field over the last three years while also boosting homers for both sides of the plate.
However, the Rangers move into a new home in 2020, and while the dimensions look incredibly similar, the early expectations are that the new retractable roof should mute Texas’ infamous jet stream, leading to a more neutral environment (lower temperatures should really help the pitchers in multiple ways, but the truth is, we are just guessing and won’t know how the new place will play for a few years).
Mets look to take the crown of best pitcher’s park
Arguably the two most extreme pitching venues — San Francisco and Miami — both moved their fences in during the offseason (Marlins Park also switched to synthetic turf), so Citi Field in New York now looks like the clear most favorable pitcher’s park in baseball (although NY hurlers have to deal with a terrible Mets defense).
All of the following information is courtesy of The Bill James Handbook, using the last three seasons as our sample (and “100” as neutral):
1) Phillies (124)
2) Rockies (121)
3) Orioles (119)
4) Reds (117)
5) Nationals (114)
26) Pirates (86)
27) Cardinals (86)
28) Royals (81)
29) Marlins (77)
30) Giants (68)
Zack Wheeler goes from an extreme pitcher’s park to an extreme hitter’s one, and he’s likely to give up more homers than usual this season … Kyle Freeland is just one year removed from finishing fourth in Cy Young voting, and German Marquez was a popular fantasy target in 2019, but Coors Field won again and both are now afterthoughts … THE BAT projects a 5.12 ERA and 1.52 WHIP for already named Rockies closer, Wade Davis.
John Means is a sleeper, but Orioles pitchers have the double whammy of having to play in the AL East as well as in one of baseball’s best launching pads (Camden Yards is also one of the most extreme places when it comes to suppressing strikeouts). Conversely, while Reds hurlers suffer from Cincy’s homer-proneness, Great American Ballpark is also tied for the MLB-lead when it comes to increasing strikeouts (by 11%), so Trevor Bauer could easily surpass 250 Ks this year.
Joe Musgrove is a candidate to make a leap, and the beautiful PNC Park helps … Jack Flaherty oddly gave up more homers in St. Louis than on the road last season, and he recorded a 0.91 ERA with a 0.71 WHIP after the All-Star break … It’s unclear how great of an impact the new dimensions will have at Marlins Park, but it further makes Corey Dickerson a fantasy sleeper as a possible cleanup hitter who’s cheap at drafts … Both Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez pitched far better at home (3.56 and 3.39 ERA, respectively) than on the road (5.40 and 7.36) last season … Oracle Park will almost certainly still heavily lean toward helping pitching despite the new dimensions, as the ocean proximity and low-temperature levels remain the same.
Likely to the surprise of some, Fenway Park just missed the bottom-five (87). It’s a perfect example of how a park can be extremely favorable to hitters (Fenway ranks among the leaders in boosting run-scoring and BA) while also being a decidedly negative place for power (the opposite is true for the White Sox).
To go deeper with batters, we dig into handedness:
HOME RUNS - RIGHTIES
1) Phillies (126)
2) Orioles (123)
3) Rockies (119)
4) Reds (118)
5) Nationals (115)
26) Diamondbacks (89) *2018-19 only
27) Cardinals (81)
28) Pirates (79)
29) Marlins (75)
30) Giants (74)
Maybe we are underestimating Scott Kingery’s power potential this year, and the same may be true for Nick Senzel. The former No. 2 pick is falling in drafts thanks to not currently having a certain spot in Cincy’s lineup while recovering from shoulder surgery … Nick Castellanos led MLB in doubles last season and given his new dimensions — while going from hitting the majority of his career in spacious Comerica to GAB — a power outbreak should be expected … Carter Kieboom and Starlin Castro are both sleepers, with the latter undergoing as dramatic an upgrade for righty power as it gets … Victor Robles is deservingly shooting up draft boards, and here’s another reason why.
The conducive backdrop behind the batter’s eye has helped keep Chase Field a slightly favorable hitter’s park overall, but with a two-year sample now, the humidor has greatly reduced home runs in Arizona … Even so, I’d stay far away from Madison Bumgarner (AKA Mason Saunders) at his ADP, as he’ll not only be dealing with a natural aging curve and mileage that’s piling up after signing a free-agent deal with the Diamondbacks, but over the last two seasons, his ERA has gone from 2.48 at home to 5.16 on the road. Leaving San Francisco is a major hit … Buster Posey is reportedly feeling much healthier another year removed from hip surgery. He’s never been cheaper at draft tables, is the rare catcher not projected to destroy your BA (and with a good spot in a batting order) and with his ability to hit to all fields, should be helped with SF’s fences moving in.
HOME RUNS - LEFTIES
1) Angels (125) *2018-19 only
2) Rockies (123)
2) White Sox (123)
4) Phillies (122)
5) Yankees (119)
26) Royals (84)
27) Padres (81)
28) Marlins (80)
29) Red Sox (79)
30) Giants (59)
Since the Angels moved their right-field fences in two years ago, Anaheim has been the friendliest place for left-handed homers. Shohei Ohtani showed up looking yoked and would be a threat to hit 45 homers in this park if not for his side pitching gig (can he go 10-30-15 this year?) … Daniel Murphy somehow only hit three of his 13 homers last season in Coors Field despite getting more ABs at home, and he’ll be a nice fantasy profit as a “last year’s bum” in between injuries in 2020.
Switch-hitter Yasmani Grandal sees mostly a neutral move in parks going from Milwaukee to Chicago, while this is just more proof that Yoan Moncada is going to be a monster. You’ll want him on your fantasy teams this year … Didi Gregorius signed in the rare place that’s even more helpful to lefty power than Yankee Stadium.
Trent Grisham saw a big downgrade in his power projection after getting traded from the Brewers to Petco Park during the offseason, but slider-heavy Dinelson Lamet should especially benefit when facing lefties moving forward. He gave up a bunch of homers last season despite the friendly confines while also recording a 24.0 K-BB% that would’ve ranked top-10 among starters (just behind Walker Buehler) during his return from Tommy John surgery, had he qualified. Lamet’s 14.0 SwStr% similarly would’ve ranked top-10, so go draft him.
With changes coming to the Giants’ park, now would be a good time to point out just how extreme this place has historically suppressed lefty power (by 41% over the last three years!), which gives Brandon Belt some post-post-hype sleeper hope and highlights just how silly good Barry Bonds was (he once slugged .915 and hit 37 homers over 224 ABs in that park in a season!).
While mostly remembered for his outgoing and warm personality, let’s not forget Bonds was also the greatest hitter ever.
For a more detailed look at breaking down homers by LF, CF, and RF, go here (Mookie Betts is getting a sneaky strong power upgrade with the offseason blockbuster, while Alex Verdugo saw the opposite).
1) Rockies (134)
2) Rangers (127)
3) Nationals (110)
4) Tigers (107)
5) Cubs (104)
27) Padres/Dodgers/Mariners/Cardinals (91)
28) Marlins (88)
29) Giants (88)
30) Mets (83)
Coors Field also sits atop batting average and nearly in home runs, as it’s not just the thin air that makes it baseball’s best hitter’s park; it’s the spacious outfield dimensions as well (the Rockies are perennially among the league leaders in team BABIP). There’s a good reason Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson have been added and dropped repeatedly in the past and why Brendan Rodgers could be a fantasy difference-maker in the second half of this season.
With the Rangers getting a new place, the Astros’ expected changes and Seattle and Oakland (93) acting as two of the more favorable pitcher’s parks, the new AL West is suddenly a much more welcoming division for hurlers (Dylan Bundy is one of my favorite targets in fantasy drafts this year) … Max Scherzer is one of the most underrated athletes over the last decade … Matthew Boyd finished eighth in K-BB% among starters last year, so he’s not far off becoming a borderline ace in real life. Unfortunately, he’s got a lot working against him in fantasy terms.
During his first year in San Diego, Manny Machado posted a .230 BABIP at Petco Park compared to .314 on the road … It’s a good thing J.D. Davis was in the top 10% of the league in exit velocity and Hard Hit% last year because Citi Field also suppresses batting average more than any other park in baseball (and by the same wide 5% margin as runs scored). That gap will only grow considering the changes in Miami and San Francisco.
Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello get massive upgrades moving from the AL East and hitter’s parks to this pitching haven (aside from the ugly Mets’ defense, of course), while Steven Matz becomes more intriguing in leagues that allow daily transactions (he had a 2.31 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at home last year compared to a 6.62 ERA and 1.58 WHIP away) … This is the year to draft Edwin Diaz (he’s No. 2 on my RP board but costs nowhere near that) after he posted a 5.46 ERA at Citi Field last season despite a 52:7 K:BB ratio over 31.1 innings, while Noah Syndergaard is just a tweak away (2.86 FIP on the road last year) from winning a Cy Young award, given his stuff and favorable environment.