Welcome to the Chop Shop, Josh Donaldson

The Braves made an early off-season splash by signing veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson to a one-year contract. He’ll take over at the hot corner and will likely hit cleanup behind a trio of established and rising stars. Now on his third team in one year, let’s dive into the park factors to figure out how the move might affect his hitting performance.

I’ll include both teams he played for in 2018. Note that these park factors are from 2017, so they may have changed since. Also a reminder that the park factors have already been halved to reflect home games only occurring in half the total games. The best offensive park for each metric will be highlighted in yellow and worst in red.

Park Factor Comparison
Team 1B as R 2B as R 3B as R HR as R
Blue Jays 96 107 96 102
Indians 98 103 83 99
Braves 100 103 90 95
Park Factor Comparison
Blue Jays 100 99 99 99 100 98
Indians 100 100 101 97 101 92
Braves 100 97 100 100 103 101

Not surprisingly, we find that Toronto leads the pack in three of four hit types, while Atlanta tops singles, even though it’s merely neutral. As a result, the move to Atlanta might boost Donaldson’s BABIP marginally, but could potentially reduce his double and homer totals. Obviously, the loss of both of those would hurt his fantasy value. Even worse is that Atlanta is the worst park of the three for home runs, suppressing them by 10%, while Toronto boosts them by 4% and Cleveland reduces them by 2%. That’s a meaningful difference.

Moving on to the plate discipline and batted ball metrics, we find that oddly, all three parks are exactly neutral for strikeouts. Walks are pretty close, but Atlanta is the worst park, which could result in a hit to his walk rate.

Obviously, there’s no “good” or “bad” ground ball and fly ball rate, so those aren’t highlighted, but they are relatively close that it shouldn’t have much of an effect. Instead, we could look at the line drive rate, and this is one spot Atlanta was best in. A more favorable environment for line drives could also help boost his BABIP. Last is a significant difference in IFFB (infield fly balls). Cleveland suppressed the batted ball type the most, while Atlanta boosts pop-ups by a minor degree. That could have the effect of reducing Donaldson’s BABIP, which might be offset by any jump spurred by additional line drives.

So overall, we find that the park switch may hamper his home run total, reduce his walk rate, and probably be around neutral to slightly positive for his BABIP. That sounds like the move is a net negative, but not a killer. The good news is the Braves feature a solid offense, though even with Donaldson added, are still projected to produce slightly less batting value as per our depth charts.

Of course, the biggest question with Donaldson isn’t whether the park and team switch is a positive or negative for his fantasy value. It’s whether his health will affect him, either by forcing him to the DL, or nagging him enough to hamper his performance. I obviously can’t answer that, but do remember that he’ll be entering his age 33 season and is now coming off two injury marred seasons in a row. Furthermore, his strikeout rate and SwStk% marks both jumped to career worsts. Depending on his cost, I might be interested, but don’t expect a full rebound.

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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3 years ago

Do parks have a measured effect on walk & strikeout rates and batted ball distributions? Could this be skewed by the players who play there most?