Rhys Hoskins and Joey Gallo Find New Homes

Since Friday, there have been two fantasy relevant free agent signings. On Friday, Rhys Hoskins, who missed all of last season due to a torn ACL in his left knee, signed a two-year, $34 million contract with the Brewers. Then on Saturday, Joey Gallo signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Nationals. Let’s consult the park factors and determine how their new home parks might affect their results.

Rhys Hoskins to Brewers

About three and a half weeks ago, I read the below comment on my First Base Fantasy Rankings:

25 days ago
How many more tiers would need to be listed before including a Brewer?

After I commented that I was actually optimistic about Jake Bauer last season, the man who had been sitting atop the Brewers first base depth job at the time, another commenter chimed in:

24 days ago
Reply to nathanj
Well if the Brewers had a 1B he would be listed. Jake Bauers is a poor hitter who should be a bench player.

Huzzah! In one fell swoop, the Brewers found their first baseman and Bauers has now been relegated to the bench. We no longer have to play the “how many more tiers” guessing game to find a Brewers first baseman make an appearance! Hoskins will now take over the job full-time and figures to hit cleanup.

While he missed all of last season, he has played his entire career with the Phillies, making a park comparison quite simple. So how might the move from Citizens Bank Park (CBP) to American Family Field (AFF) affect his results? Let’s check out the park factors.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B* 2B* 3B* HR* SO BB GB FB LD IFFB Basic
Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) 98 98 100 105 100 100 99 101 100 108 100
American Family Field (Brewers) 98 96 98 104 103 102 96 101 97 102 100
*as a right-handed hitter

Let’s begin with the hit type factors. We can skip over the single factors since they are identical. Both parks slightly suppress the most common hit type. Hoskins isn’t much of a singles hitter, so he could have used a boost here. His career BABIP sits at just .273 and amazingly, his high is just .292, recorded in 2022, which is around the league average. After that, he hasn’t been above .276! That’s because he pulls a high percentage of his grounders, and almost never goes the opposite way, resulting in a paltry .194 career BABIP on grounders. His new park is unlikely to improve that.

Both parks suppress doubles as well, but AFF does so a bit more than CBP. Hoskins can hit doubles and has recorded around 30 or so each year over his career. Even though his home park had reduced doubles, he still hit significantly more of them at home. I’m not sure if this is park effects related or Hoskins just performing better at home like most. Hoskins has only hit seven triples in his career, five of which came in 2019. I don’t think those factors matter at all, so we’ll move on.

What we care most about for Hoskins is his home run potential. Despite a maxEV of over 110 MPH every season of his career, double digit Barrel% marks in all but one season, and a home park that boosts right-handed home runs, it continues to surprise me that he has posted just a 17.4% career HR/FB rate and a peak of just 18.8%, ignoring his sample size debut in 2017. I always felt like he had significantly more upside. What’s actually really shocking is that he posted a slightly higher HR/FB rate on the road compared to at home! CBP ranks as the fifth friendliest park for right-handed home runs, so perhaps his swing simply didn’t fit it as well as others.

He’s moving to another strong home park for home runs, one that’s only slightly less favorable. Since he clearly didn’t take advantage of CBP’s home run friendly confines as much as you’d expect given the overall park factor, perhaps AFF will be more to his liking. If you believe Statcast’s expected home runs by park calculations, he would have hit seven more home runs at AFF than he actually did while playing for the Phillies. That’s not completely fair because he only played about half his games at CBP, but the chart also includes CBP and calculates three more if all his games took place there, rather than just half. So we would expect a very minor bump in home runs over his career with the park switch. So, I think his home run projection should remain relatively unchanged by the move, maybe you add a homer at most.

AFF actually inflates strikeouts, while CBP had no effect there. Hoskins posted the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2022, despite pushing his SwStk% back into single digits, so he really can’t afford to suffer from an even higher strikeout rate, as a reasonable more has been always been part of his appeal, at least to me. He has actually posted a meaningfully higher strikeout rate on the road than at home, which is probably similar to lots of other players’ splits.

While AFF inflates strikeouts, which is a negative, it also inflates walks. Hoskins is already quite patient at the plate, posting double digit marks his entire career, though that’s fallen below 11% the past two seasons. The move perhaps reverses the slide.

Next up are the batted ball type factors. we care most about Hoskins FB% since that could result in a home run, and we find both parks have identical factors, slightly increasing that rate. AFF actually suppresses line drives, but it also inflates pop-ups less than CBP. Hoskins has been middling at hitting line drives, but does hit a lot of pop-ups, particularly given how many fly balls he hits. The shape of his batted ball profile might change slightly, but the identical singles factors suggest the park switch itself shouldn’t impact his BABIP much.

Finally, we arrive at the Basic factor, just to learn that both parks are neutral! It’s pretty clear from the factors that both parks are very similar — they suppress hits and BABIP, but increase home runs. The effects then cancel each other out, resulting in neutral park effects overall. So after all this, the park switch is unlikely to have any material impact on his performance, but it’s good to see him signed and locked into an everyday job in the middle of the batting order. I’m willing to gamble here thinking he might be undervalued.

Joey Gallo to Nationals

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B* 2B* 3B* HR* SO BB GB FB LD IFFB Basic
Target Field (Twins) 100 102 94 98 101 102 99 101 98 103 99
Nationals Park (Nationals) 104 108 95 105 99 99 100 102 99 103 100
*as a left-handed hitter

Joey Gallo hasn’t recorded even 500 PAs since 2021 and actually has only done it three times in his career. Last year, he dealt with injuries and poor performance, but the Nationals decided to take a cheap gamble on the left-handed slugger and they seemingly have the home park to make their decision look smart.

It’s a clean sweep in the hit type factors for Nationals compared to Target. Nationals is tied for the third base home park for left-handed singles, as it’s significantly better than it is for right-handers, where it actually suppresses singles. Gallo has struggled mightily with BABIP over his career. He somehow managed a .368 mark during half a season in 2019, but has never been above .250 in any other full season. When you’re also striking out as much as he does, BABIP is extremely important, as there just aren’t that many balls put into play, so the balls that do really need to fall for hits at at least a league average clip.

So this is a nice move for Gallo as there’s really only one direction for his BABIP to go — up. Similarly, Nationals is excellent for left-handed doubles as well, ranking third overall in park factor. Gallo has actually been an extremely weak doubles hitter throughout his career, so poor in fact that it almost looks like his stats are a mistake! For his career, he has averaged just about 22 doubles per 600 at-bats, which is well below average. So moving to a park that inflates them could prove to be a real booster. Triples factors are nearly identical and don’t mean much for a guy who has hit just 10 throughout his entire career.

Moving on to what we most care about, home run factors, we find a meaningful difference. Target has been slightly pitcher friendly, while Nationals ranks eighth in baseball in friendliness for left-handed home runs. For a guy with a career 26.7% HR/FB rate, that’s obviously a big deal. Perhaps it’ll be the nudge he needs to get back to his Rangers levels in that department. Obviously, with the majority of his fantasy value being driven by home runs, anything that could push him back to a 30% HR/FB rate will be very welcome.

The strikeout rate factors are fairly similar, with Nationals being slightly hitter friendly and Target pitcher friendly. Gallo has been a strikeout machine throughout his entire career, and it’s hard to imagine the slightly better home park would change that. His lowest single season strikeout rate is 34.6%, so just getting back into the mid-30% range is the first goal after he posted an inflated 42.8% mark last year.

Nationals also suppresses walks slightly, while Target inflates them, but Gallo has walked a ton everywhere he has played. Since he’s surrounded by a weak lineup, that walk rate is unlikely to drop anytime soon.

Next up are the batted ball type factors. They are all quite similar, so we could expect a similar shape to his rates. However, his LD% took a dive last year to a meager 12.2%, while his FB% shot up to the highest rate of his career. It almost seemed like the result of frustration and just trying to lift every single ball. Good for his home run potential, bad for his BABIP and batting average!

Finally, we end up at the Basic factor. Despite inflating every hit type, plus home runs, Nationals comes out neutral. Why? Because the Basic factor is for hitters on both sides of the plate, not just left-handers, and the park is more pitcher friendly to righties. If there was a left-handed only Basic factor, it would be meaningfully higher and the gap between it and Target would widen, making it more obvious that this is an excellent park switch for Gallo.

Overall, I think the park switch is a major positive for Gallo’s performance. But, the Nationals offense is weak and the highest projected OBP on the team among their starters is just .323, courtesy of the very slow Keibert Ruiz. So even if Gallo returns to the 30-homer plateau, it’s not going to translate into a whole bunch of RBI. Since he figures to only start as part of the strong side of a platoon, I think he remains relegated to deep leagues, but does get a massive boost in leagues that count OBP instead of batting average.

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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28 days ago

Nice job, Brewers. Rowdy Tellez wasn’t cutting it so maybe Hoskins will.