The fun continues as the fantasy-like trades are piling up! Yesterday, the White Sox continued their fire sale by making a four-player trade, with Lucas Giolito being the centerpiece of their return. Heading into the 2016 season, Giolito was an elite prospect, ranking as the best in the Nationals system, thanks to a lethal fastball-curve ball combo. But a poor showing over a small sample in the Majors has dimmed his star a bit. Now rather than trying to rebound in the more pitcher friendly National League and a neutral Nationals Park, he’s going to have to regain his status in the American League in one of the most home run friendly parks in baseball.
Let’s compare the relevant park factors to see how the park switch might affect his future potential:
The difference in non-homer hits is rather stark. Nationals Park (NP) boosts both singles and doubles, while Guaranteed Rate Field (GRF) suppresses both. Each park reduces triples, though NP does so at nearly double the rate that GRF does. Of course, triples are rare enough that the change won’t have much of an impact. What’s really important is the singles and doubles numbers. This will have the effect of reducing BABIP, which benefits Giolito. Of course, that’s solely due to the park switch. Obviously, more comes into play when forecasting BABIP, primarily the defense.
The home run park factor gap is the largest we find in the table and it’s what will cause the biggest blow to Giolito’s future performance projections. GRF is tied for the fifth best park in baseball for home runs, while NP ranks 20th. It’s a significant difference and could wreak havoc on his HR/FB rate.
We move along to strikeout and walk rates where you see dramatic effects that you wouldn’t typically think existed. NP suppressed both, while GRF boosts both. At least the strikeout rate boosting effect could help offset the decline he would see from moving into the American League and no longer being able to face the pitcher a couple of times a game. The walk rate effect — that’s bad. Giolito struggled with his control at both Double-A this season and during his short stint with the Nationals, so he doesn’t need another thing working against him.
The batted ball type factors are more interesting than insightful now. With only 21.1 MLB innings under his belt, we don’t know yet what his typical batted ball type distribution is going to look like. But fewer grounders and more fly balls is typically a bad thing, especially when those fly balls are coming in such a home run haven. Perhaps that big boost in pop-ups will help. At the very least, it could combine with the reduction in singles and doubles to really improve his BABIP.
Overall, GRF inflates offense by 2%, while NP is neutral. That doesn’t seem as bad as I expected, but then you have to account for the league switch, which will further hamper his peripherals. No matter how you slice it, it’s clear that this move takes a big bite out of Giolito’s future fantasy prospects for the time being. Giolito keeper league owners, you have my sincerest condolences. Sniffles.
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.