Though as I type this it hasn’t been made official yet, word is that Billy Hamilton has signed a one-year deal with the Royals. If only they still had Jarrod Dyson, they would essentially have two of the same player on their roster! Amazingly, Hamilton has yet to crack a .300 wOBA, but his superb fielding in center field has kept him in the lineup on most days. Is there any hope for a park-switch related boost to his offense? Let’s check the park factors.
Let’s start with the plate discipline stats, strikeouts and walks. Hamilton’s strikeout rate has ticked up for three straight seasons, though his SwStk% had remained remarkably stable until a dramatic spike this past season. A higher than league average strikeout rate is unacceptable for a guy holding a sub-.100 career ISO mark. Luckily, Kauffman Stadium (Royals) suppressed strikeouts, while Great American Ball Park (Reds) actually inflated them, making for a nice swing in factors to hopefully help Hamilton reverse the trend.
Hamilton has never been much of a walker, though he did post a career high mark this season, which was the closest to league average he has gotten. He actually doesn’t swing at a higher rate of balls outside the zone than average, so it appears that perhaps his lower walk rate is due to the fact he always gets thrown a higher rate of strikes than the average. And why not? With little power, there’s no reason to walk him, especially with that speed. Unfortunately, the park switch will do him no favors, as Kauffman slightly reduces walks, while GABP marginally increases them.
Let’s move along to the batted ball type factors. Line drive rate is relatively close, but Kauffman is a small bit favorable for hitters, while GABP was slightly unfavorable. Hamilton has actually been pretty good at hitting liners throughout his career and is coming off a career best mark. He’ll need to continue hitting liners to maintain a BABIP over .300. Another positive is the effect Kauffman has on pop-ups, as it drastically suppresses them versus an inflationary effect by GABP. Hamilton’s IFFB% has been all over the place in his career, and he’s coming off easily his highest mark this year. Luckily, that high LD% was enough to offset the high IFFB% so he could keep his BABIP above .300.
Finally, we get to the hit categories. It’s almost a clean sweep for Kaufman, as it is barely better for singles, but meaningfully better for doubles, and significantly better for triples. This is all good news for Hamilton, and he’ll actually be able to take advantage of that triples factor given his blazing speed.
Normally, leaving one of the best home run parks for one of the worst is a major negative. Not in this case! Hamilton has been amazingly consistent on the home run power side of things, having posted a HR/FB rate between 3% and 4% every single season of his career. He has hit between three and six homers every season, so the less favorable environment in Kauffman for home runs is going to have no effect.
Overall, it might be a surprise to find that Kauffman was actually slightly hitter friendly in 2017. I figured it was one of the best pitcher’s parks in the league, but my perception was likely driven by the home run factor. This is actually a great park switch for Hamilton and he’s literally the perfect type of hitter to get the most benefits out of it. On the park switch alone, I think his value increases.
Another side benefit of the move to the Royals is his spot in the lineup. While the Reds exercised lots of patience throughout Hamilton’s career by leaving him atop the order despite a pathetic OBP, he actually spent a majority of the time hitting ninth this year. On the other hand, the Royals have been more than willing to hit low OBP guys at the top of the lineup and will likely give Hamilton a much longer leash there than the Reds would have if they gave him another chance to lead off. So with a greater opportunity to earn lead-off at-bats that should boost all his counting stats and every reason to run wild in a home park that suppresses homers, this move should boost his fantasy value at least several bucks. He’ll likely be a great value on draft day, since he’s typically undervalued to begin with given many owners’ unwillingness to buy one category studs.
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.