Merry Christmas to all the San Diego fans! You’ve got plenty of presents to unwrap this year, and odds are there will be more on the way as soon as this post goes live, meaning I may have to write a second part before January is over. Normally the spirit of Christmas says that it’s not the receiving, it’s the giving. Well, the Friars gave up a lot of minor league talent, but that’s okay with me given the big-name MLB players they got in return, and the fact that I don’t trust minors until they’re proven. However, fantasy managers may be groaning about their hitters moving to Petco Park. Let’s look at each acquired player’s fantasy value going forward.
The Petco Park Factor
First, it may be worth looking at the home field for the new arrivals. We all know Petco is a pitcher’s park, but they move the fences recently, so how bad is it? It depends on what source you use, but none of the data is encouraging. ESPN’s park factors ranked Petco as 29th for run production, 24th for home runs, and 28th for hits. ParkFactors.com ranked Petco 27th overall. This is not a productive environment, which was exemplified by San Diego’s horrific offense in 2014. As such, even though there are some people who insist that due to average fly ball distance and overlaying stadium dimensions on each the power hitters won’t be affected, I don’t buy it. After all, Robinson Cano’s HR from his last Yankee season should have translated to Safeco, and yet his power production dropped. There are other factors that go into it; we simply can’t move one fly ball hit in one stadium on one day to another stadium and assume everything will go the same.
Upton used to play in the NL West, so he at least has some familiarity with his new home park. As I said above, I don’t put a lot of stock into stadium overlays, so I’m looking at his general skills first. His HR/FB was steady the last two years at 18%, and he’s in his prime for power production. His hard contact rate was up in 2014, which likely helped with his higher BABIP. Therefore it’s hard to expect a .270 BA to repeat, and when you do consider the general effects of Petco, which suppress hits, I see his average definitely closer to .260. When you also factor in Petco’s less HR friendly environment, there’s more risk involved for redraft leagues. That being said, I have been waiting for him to have a power breakout, and it may still happen despite the home park. He does get to play 82 games in other parks, after all.
There was a surge of power in Kemp during 2014, with a 20% HR/FB. That’s certainly impressive, and it harkens back to his best years. However, what worries me is the decline in his fly ball rate, which has dropped from 41% in 2011 to 31% by 2014. Petco is a big park, and if you’re not hitting many fly balls in the first place, and your HR/FB is likely to come down at home because of the stadium, then there’s definitely cause concern. Oh, and we know he’s a big health risk, especially with the new reports of arthritis in both hips. Dodger Stadium kept down run production and hits according to ESPN’s park factors, but it was 5th overall for home runs (note that Kemp hit 17 of his 25 HR at home). If Kemp stops hitting home runs, and his hits come down as well, then I’m not banking on more than a .275 BA and 20 HR — and that’s assuming he stays healthy enough to play most of the year. Kemp’s fantasy value really depends on where he’s drafted in 2015. If people assume he’s on his way back to the top, then be sure to pass.
Here’s an interesting case, because injuries derailed his 2014. You want Myers because of his potentially big power production. Tropicana was right next to Petco in HR park factor, so there’s a chance his power won’t be affected as badly as the other two. The risk with Myers is that he hasn’t yet had a big season in the majors. We still have to see him do it, and Petco could be a difficult home park in which to blossom. A lot depends on how he adjusts in what is hopefully his first 500+ AB season, but for now I’m capping my expectations at .265 and 20 HR, and I may take the under on both of those. For redraft formats I like to grab proven talent, and Myers certainly isn’t that. Pass unless you can get him as a #3 OF, and odds are that won’t happen because someone will bite early.
I was rather excited about Norris for 2014. He made strides in reducing his strikeout rate, and Oakland’s stadium was in the top-10 for runs and hit production. Now, we have to worry how Petco will affect him, and given that he’s not an asset defensively and can’t play DH in the National League, it could trying to play 1B. That won’t hurt in 2015, but if he goes there full time and loses catcher eligibility, then his fantasy values takes a hit. Looking at his 2014 season, his BA drop was not due to a drop in BABIP, which was steady, so it may bounce back. However, the BA difference between halves was likely due to the balls he hit over the fence (15% HR/FB) in the first half, compared to the power outage in the second half (4% HR/FB) and a much higher ground ball rate (50%). If he doesn’t get his FB% and HR/FB up quickly in San Diego, there will be trouble. He’s only worth gambling on in 2 C leagues or NL-only leagues.
There’s less hope of Middlebrooks becoming a valuable 3B due to his 2013-14 stats. Remove him from a strong offensive team and a small park, and put him in a spacious park with a worse offense, and you’re asking for more disappointment. There’s really not much to analyze in terms of numbers, because he’s been awful and he hasn’t received a lot of playing time. He’s a wild card, and the best you could hope for is a rosterable bench player. If he has a hot first month, I’d try to capitalize on his former hype and move him for more certainty.
Gyorko was a Padre in 2014, and he wasn’t traded. I do want to touch on him here, however, for two reasons. First, if the Padres are going to take a chance on Middlebrooks at 3B, it means that Gyorko should stick at 2B for the foreseeable future. That helps his fantasy value, because he has legit 25 HR power. Now that he has some fellow power hitters in the lineup with him, I also see a chance for improved production from him, and less pressure for him to be the star. I wouldn’t say that his rookie season is his floor, but I like him moving forward and would be more likely to grab him than other 2B who struggled in 2014 such as Hill and Pedroia. I’ll consider him as a potential top-10 2B, but that’s not a certainty. In leagues with MI he’s worth the risk.
The Team Factor
I do talk about how horrible the Padres offense was in 2014. Obviously adding Upton, Kemp, and Myers should result in more thump in their lineup, even if they aren’t as good as they were elsewhere. There will be some lineup protection for these guys, as opposed to only one of them arriving in San Diego. Overturning a third of the daily lineup, plus having a healthy Gyorko, should result in some quick improvement. I do see the R and RBI improving for them as a team, but even so, the individual players who were traded to San Diego are likely to see declines in those categories compared to where they were. In my redraft league, I’m knocking all of them down at least a little. Safer options are less sexy, but you don’t want to have added risk early in your draft, and that’s what a player like Upton or Kemp would be.