Daulton Varsho Heads to Toronto

Nearly a month ago during the latter half of December, the Blue Jays traded prospect Gabriel Moreno and veteran Lourdes Gurriel Jr. for Daulton Varsho. While no longer a catcher, he still played 31 games at the position last year and will therefore maintain his premium eligibility. How will the move to a new home park impact his performance? Let’s consult the park factors.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B as L 2B as L 3B as L HR as L SO BB GB FB LD IFFB Basic
Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 102 103 124 95 100 100 102 99 104 97 101
Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 98 101 96 102 101 98 101 101 100 97 99

That was not what I was expecting. It’s almost a clean sweep for Chase! What’s worse is that there’s a caveat to these park factors. The Rogers Centre is undergoing renovations, including changes to the outfield wall dimensions and height. Word is that it appears that both the left and right field walls will be made significantly higher, though the fences will also be moved in by a couple of feet. It’s therefore difficult to predict how these changes will impact the park factors, so for the purposes of this post, we’ll just have to assume they won’t have major effects. But typically, higher walls result in fewer home runs, but a higher BABIP as balls clank off the wall (think the Green Monster at Fenway), while moved in fences increases home runs, but reduces BABIP as previous doubles become home runs, which are excluded in the BABIP calculation. So, competing effects and impossible to determine now which, if any, wins out.

Let’s start with the non-home run hit type factors. Here, it’s a clean sweep for Chase. The park inflated singles, while Rogers suppressed them. That’s not great for Varsho, who sports a lowly .272 career BABIP, thanks to his extreme fly ball tendency, combined with a high IFFB%, and low LD%. He has certainly liked hitting at Chase better, as he sports a meaningful home/road BABIP split, though even his home mark is below the league average. It’s therefore not ideal to be moving to a park that suppresses singles.

Moving on to doubles, both parks inflated them, with Rogers a little less so. Varsho has hit 50% more doubles at home than away, so has clearly benefited from his home environment. Lastly, Chase has been an incredible park for left-handed triples. Oddly, he has actually hit one more triple on the road than at home! Still, it’s such an infrequent event that I would forecast fewer triples now with the Blue Jays.

Next up is home runs, the only factor where Rogers is more hitter friendly. It would have to take some seriously high walls to bring that factor down enough for it to be less favorable than Chase for Varsho this year! Varsho has really struggled to hit home runs at Chase. He has posted a miniscule 9.8% HR/FB rate at home, versus a 19.1% mark on the road. That’s a massive difference! Regardless of how the outfield changes affect Blue Jays hitters, Rogers still has got to be better for Varsho’s HR/FB rate. The only question is how much better.

Moving along to the strikeout and walk factors, we find relatively close numbers here. Rogers slightly inflated strikeouts versus a neutral Chase. Varsho has posted a significantly lower strikeout rate at home than on the road, which might have more to do with playing better at home than park factors. Rogers suppressed walks slightly, while Chase was also neutral here. Varsho posted a significantly higher walk rate at home, which again, should probably be chalked up to just playing better at home.

Hopping over to the batted ball type factors, we find Rogers slightly inflated both grounders and fly balls, but both factors were relatively close to Chase’s factors. Varsho has posted nearly identical batted ball type marks at home and away, with the exception of pop-ups. He has posted a much higher IFFB% at home, which doesn’t match with the park factor at all. Also surprising is he posted a slightly lower LD% at home, even though Chase sports a hitter friendly factor. I would still project a decline in LD% given his new home will merely be neutral for the batted ball type.

Finally, we arrive at the five-year Basic run scoring factor. Rogers has proven to be slightly pitcher friendly overall, versus a slightly hitter friendly Chase. The gap isn’t big enough to make a huge impact on his projection, but it’s the shape that’s important. It’s pretty clear that from these factors alone and ignoring the impact of the Rogers renovation, the move could hurt his BABIP, but increase his HR/FB rate. Obviously, his stolen bases will play a major role in driving his fantasy value, but I would say for fantasy purposes, the potentially higher HR/FB rate more than offsets the loss of BABIP, and results in a slightly higher projected fantasy value. So this is probably a good move for his fantasy value, especially considering the Blue Jays lineup figures to score more runs, boosting his plate appearances, runs scored, and RBI opportunities.

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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John Wickmember
7 days ago

What date range are the Chase Field park factors from? The introduction of the humidor made it much more pitcher-friendly, is that baked into these numbers?

Regardless — the Rogers Centre numbers are less hitter-friendly than I expected to see.

The benefit of this move is much more about lineup and RBI/R opportunities than the parks anyway IMO.