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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jose Reyes and Park Factor

We were just talking about position scarcity in this space, and I've already delved pretty deeply into my thoughts on Robinson Cano, so I thought I'd expand that a bit with another player.  Jose Reyes.

Reyes is a top tier option at a scarce position, but there are other reasons for optimism with him.  Primarily what I'm talking about is "park factor."

What is park factor, you ask?  It's hugely important and vastly under-rated and under-reported.  Park factor is a look at the effect of the dimensions (or altitude, as the case may be) of the ballpark in which the player is playing.  A strong hitter with a pitcher's park as their home field may only be average, and vice versa.  And, it's not only the home park but you can also take into consideration intra-division ballpark factors as well.  For example, Robinson Cano plays in the best AL ballpark for left-handed power, but he's also got a few extra games in Baltimore (great for LH power) and Toronto (better than average) and Boston (suppresses power but improves batting average for lefties).

Sometimes a player languishes all his career in pitchers parks, battling to maintain a reputation as an average major league hitter.  It's a shame, but sometimes players who would be legit everyday players in a hitters park find themselves struggling to stick in the big leagues in a pitchers park.

However, there is the occasional player who emerges as a strong offensive performer in spite of his circumstances.  These are the guys that we just hope and pray find a way to play in a hitters park while still in their prime.

And with that as the backdrop, I present Jose Reyes.  Reyes spent several seasons in Citi Field before they moved the fences in last year, and last year Reyes was in the pitcher-friendly Marlins Ballpark in Miami.

Marlins Ballpark doesn't do too much to batting average but it depresses home run power from both sides of the plate, so Reyes being a switch hitter didn't help him too much last year.  It's worth noting here that he's a little better from the right side but there isn't a big difference in his career platoon splits.

During his time in New York's Citi Field he played in a park that suppressed home run power and batting average from both sides, yet still excelled.  Moving out of those environs to Miami didn't help much, so let's look forward to 2013 and examine the move from Miami to Toronto.

Toronto profiles as the 9th best hitters park in all of baseball baseball with especially good numbers for right-handed power.  Earlier we noted that Reyes is slightly better right-handed, so it is possible that he lifts a few more of those fly balls into the stands.  The field improves batting average from both sides of the plate as well as power, so you should see an uptick across the board for Reyes.

In his career, Reyes has been a 12 homer guy who hits .291 with a ton of steals (55 per 162 games) and runs scored (110 per 162).  He also chips in with 64 RBI, which is pretty solid for a leadoff guy.

Lately he's been more of a 40 SB guy, but I think you could see everything else move up over his career averages.  Something like .297 with 17 HR, 40 SB, 120 Runs, and 70 RBI is not out of the question at all.  And he's a shortstop, people!

Furthermore, I would contend that he will be hitting in the best lineup he's ever been a part of this year.  That will help with the runs and RBI, especially if he ends up in the two-hole behind Emilio Bonifacio.  Plus he's got a chip on his shoulder after being traded only one year after taking his talents to South Beach. 

Lots and lots of our "green flags," Brainiacs.  The thing that gives people pause is his injury history and now playing on turf.  And yes the turf might be a possible concern, but the injury history is definitely overblown.  It is true that he did have a big setback four years ago in 2009, getting only 147 AB's that year.  However, in seven of the eight years he's been an everyday player he's totaled more than 537 AB's.  And, just last year he led the league with 716 plate appearances.  He's as good a bet as any early pick to stay healthy.

Track record, park factor, position scarcity, prime of his career, something to prove... It's all there for you with Reyes.  And, not for nothing, but I did put my money where my mouth is on this guy.  I took him at #6 overall this year in the FSIC AL-Only Expert League, ahead of Justin Verlander, Adrian Beltre, and Josh Hamilton.

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