**Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the light-filled holiday! I am a Jew, and as a result, will be fitting the stereotype to a T, going to a movie followed by a delicious Chinese dinner.
A couple of weeks ago, free agent slugger Mark Reynolds signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians to man first base on a full-time basis. He’s coming off a disappointing season that saw a drop in power that came along with the usual horrid batting average. Oriole Park at Camden Yards had always had a bandbox perception, while Progressive Field in Cleveland has typically been thought of a pitcher’s park, but never mentioned in the same breath as other extreme pitcher’s parks. Based strictly on perception, the ballpark switch is going to hurt Reyndolds’ chances of a rebound. Let’s see what the data says.
Here are the relevant park factors for right-handed hitters:
Strikeouts aren’t typically a category we think about when comparing park factors. However, there is an effect and this move looks scary for Reynolds who is already a strikeout monster. I had no idea that Cleveland’s ballpark inflates strikeouts so significantly. Reynolds actually made contact at the best rate of his career this season. Unfortunately, this change make it much more likely he’s going to fall back to his typical 30%+ strikeout percentage.
Camden Yards also benefited Reynolds by boosting singles, something in which Progressive Field reduces slightly. Of course, Reynolds has posted below average BABIP marks during his two seasons in Baltimore, so like the effect on strikeouts, this looks rather ominous. However, his batted ball profile this year does suggest a higher BABIP, so he may not see a decline at all since the effects from the park switch may be offset by a natural rebound.
Wow, look at that difference in home run park factors! Perception got it right for a change, as Camden Yards dramatically increased home run production this year. Although I knew that Progressive Field wasn’t so great for right-handed power hitters, I had no idea it was to this degree. Surprisingly, Reynolds has actually posted slightly better HR/FB ratios away from Camden Yards during his two years there. But, the move to Cleveland could put a serious dent into his power.
Last, not surprisingly, the overall run environment at each park drastically differs. Given the other factors, we could have guessed that Camden Yards inflates offense, while Progressive Field deflates it. This just gets worse and worse for current and future Reynolds fantasy owners.
So if he hadn’t already been coming off a disappointing season, Reynolds may have been one of the easiest bust picks of the season. However, he isn’t going to cost much to begin with, so the bust label may not actually be appropriate. He should see more at-bats assuming he avoids injury again, so any decline in per at-bat rates could be offset by the additional playing time. He is nothing more than a late, late gamble in shallower mixed leagues or worth a couple of bucks in auction formats. In AL-Only leagues, there’s a good chance he fails to break even, despite coming at a depressed price.
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.