A timid and monotonous off-season, coupled with a dull week of Winter Meetings, has left even the most casual baseballs disappointed with off-season results thus far. It’s no secret this free agent class was supposed to be the most exciting in recent history, with the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado searching for new teams. Both of them remain unemployed for now.
We’ve still seen a number of players sign new contracts, such as DJ LeMahieu heading to the Yankees and Jed Lowrie winding up with the Mets. Some stars will find that their new ballparks will give them a positive uptick in production, which of course means good things for prospective fantasy owners. Thanks to FantasyPros here for the assist with its Park Factors (PF) statistic, which compares a ballpark’s rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road. 1.000 is the baseline value for a neutral park. Any figure greater than 1.000 favors hitters. Without further ado, let’s dive into the part one of hitters whose new homes are signs of good things to come this year.
By all accounts, Murphy’s 2018 season was a disappointment on the fantasy front, and a slow rehab from offseason knee surgery did no good to help. The thirty three year-old second baseman only made 351 plate appearances and his two year streak of at least 23 homers ended. There are a few metrics behind the dip in power outside of the late start. Murphy’s HR/FB dropped over two percent to 10.5%, while his hard hit rate saw a significant drop to 26.1%, compared to 38 and 35% from his 2016 and 2017 All Star seasons. That should already convince fantasy managers positive regression is coming. The added incentive to pursue Daniel Murphy in your drafts is his move to Coors Field.
The three-time All Star signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Rockies in December. Even after playing 35 games at Wrigley Field, Murphy heads to one of the best hitters’ havens in the league. Coors plays much better to lefties in the power department, with a 1.275 HR Park Factor rating compared to just 0.885 at Wrigley. Furthermore, Murphy should also see an increase in the amount of Doubles he swats. In his shortened 2018, he slapped 15 two-baggers, compared to 47 and 43 in his two previous campaigns. With the dimensions at Coors park and a 1.288 PF, Murphy should expect to be much closer to his 162 game average of 42 doubles. Be sure to keep an eye on Daniel Murphy in your draft and pay for a strong rebound.
In my best Cris Collinsworth voice, now HERE’s a guy who too had a rough 2018 season between Minnesota and LA after back-to-back MVP caliber stints with the Twins. Brian Dozier watched his average, home run output, runs scored and hits drop to some of the lowest totals since his 2013 season. When observing his batted ball profile, there is not any drastic difference across his last three seasons between his contact or fly ball rates. However, a closer look shows his HR/FB% dropped six percentage points and his BAPIP tanked from .300 to .240. That’s more than enough to see his stat lines so negatively affected.
While Dozier spent the majority of his season in Minneapolis, his decline in LA cannot be ignored. This can be attributed to the poor park factors at Dodger Stadium, one of the worst run-suppressing (0.877 PF) and below-average homer (0.994) parks across the majors for right handed hitters. Now, we see a new hope for Dozier. Just last week, the Washington Nationals inked him to a one-year, $9 million deal. Nationals Park has a similar profile to Target Field, with righties seeing a slightly above average 1.051 PF for runs and a more favorable 1.150 factor for home runs. As a result, Dozier will feel right at home, assuming his BAPIP recovers to his career .272 spot. Expect another 25+ homer and double-digit steal campaign from Brian Dozier.
I would be a fool to assume most baseball fans did not already know about Yasmani Grandal’s prowess at the plate. He has established himself as a top fantasy backstop, even with Austin Barnes breathing down his neck in LA, mashing 20+ homers his last three seasons. Grandal did so in the not-so-friendly-confines of Dodger Stadium, a venue that proved to be a poor fit for former teammate Brian Dozier. What’s most impressive is that Grandal can do even better. His 18% HR/FB profile in 2017 and 2018 do not come close to his 25% mark in 2016, the same year he hit a career high 27 home runs (mind you, he took 50 less at-bats in 2016 than he did in 2018).
The rich keep getting richer. In January, the Milwaukee Brewers penned the 29 year-old catcher to a lucrative one-year, $18.25 million deal, where he will have virtually no competition for playing time. The Brewers lineup is stacked as is with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and more. Now, Grandal will get ample opportunities to drive in more runs and hit in home-run friendly ballpark. FantasyPros rates Miller Park as an above average HR venue with a 1.10 PF, well above the 0.994 mark of Dodgers Stadium. Add in Grandal’s switch hitting skills, and as a lefty he will see that PF shoot up to 1.20. Grandal will be a surefire top 5 catcher in 2019 drafts, and is well worth paying a higher round to fill your C position.