Alfonso Soriano Returns to the Big Apple

On Friday, Alfonso Soriano returned to the team he began his Major League career with, the New York Yankees, in exchange for cash and a pitching prospect. The knee-jerk reaction is probably that his fantasy value jumps given the perception we have of the Yankees offense of years past and the hitter’s haven their home park has played as. But is this true after diving into the relevant numbers? Let’s find out!

We begin our adventure by checking in on the park factors for both Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field. Though not an extreme pull hitter, Soriano has hit only one of his 17 homers this season to the right field side of center. So we’ll just compare the right-handed factors for the two parks. As a reminder, the factors are already halved to account for the games played at home.

  Runs* 1B 2B 3B HR SO* BB*
Yankees 102 99 97 85 103 99 101
Cubs 104 103 101 98 103 100 101

*These are overall factors, not just for right-handers

So strictly from a park factor standpoint, the move is a slight negative. Every factor is either a wash or favors Wrigley Field marginally, or significantly in the case of triples. However, with relatively negligible differences in parks, the power of the small sample plays the largest role, so Soriano’s performance is probably not going to be affected by the park switch by any measurable degree. Yankee stadium plays as a hitter’s park, but the majority of its effects are enjoyed by left-handed hitters, which is why it slots just below Wrigley in terms of overall hitter friendliness.

With interleague play and the widespread use of film and other forms of scouting, the move to the other league filled with strange pitchers is an overblown concern. So I won’t count that as a negative against Soriano.

That leaves us with the surrounding offensive casts of the two teams. Since Soriano hit cleanup in Chicago and has been doing the same in New York, we’ll compare the ZiPS RoS OBP projections of the top three hitters in each order to get a feel for his RBI opportunities.

  Cubs OBP Yankees OBP
1 David DeJesus 0.335 Brett Gardner 0.351
2 Junior Lake 0.301 Derek Jeter 0.335
3 Anthony Rizzo 0.342 Robinson Cano 0.365

It is possible that Starlin Castro eventually nudges his way back into the two hole, but it is clear that the top of the Yankees lineup is much better than who the Cubs are trotting out there. The Yankees also probably have better speed. So the move should certainly provide a boost to Soriano’s RBI opportunities. The bottom of each teams’ batting orders are pretty weak, but the Yankees will get Curtis Granderson back shortly and have the added benefit of the DH. So I’ll give Soriano the slightest of increases in his runs scored total…like a run or two.

All of his advanced metrics are normal, so his current performance pace should be maintained. Except for perhaps his stolen bases. He hasn’t even attempted double digit steals since 2009 (and that year he only attempted 11), but has already stolen 10 bases in 15 attempts. 2008 was the last year he stole more than 9. As of Saturday’s games, the Cubs had attempted 0.74 steals per game, ranking 16th in baseball. The Yankees attempted 0.86 steals per game, ranking 12th. Of course, the composition of a roster plays a major role in how often a team attempts a steal. The Brewers lead all of baseball in stolen base attempts per game by a wide margin. Of course they do, they have Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez!

The exercise could point out whether Soriano is joining a team that simply doesn’t run, but that isn’t the case here. I wouldn’t bet on his stolen base attempt pace continuing, given his age (37) and recent history of leg/knee issues, though.

Throw all the variables into a bowl and mix it all together and you’re left with an Alfonso Soriano that appears to be barely more valuable than he was with the Cubs. Sprinkle in a couple more RBI, maybe a run scored or two and perhaps he jumps ahead of several OFers or gains a buck of value. He could of course have a big final two months or a disappointing one, but the move to New York is unlikely to be the explanation behind it.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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9 years ago

Do you have a spray chart of Soriano’s hitting this year? If we can use yesterday as an example maybe he gains a little more value if he’s been going oppo field more to take advantage of the short porch.