How to Properly Value Players With Their New Teams (Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Jul 5, 2019

Understanding park factors would’ve allowed you to predict Christian Yelich’s power surge in 2018

The baseball offseason brings player movement in droves. Changing player evaluations based on their new club is an integral part of compiling player rankings. Gamers must consider a variety of variables for players changing teams when projecting their performance for the upcoming season. This piece will lay out something of a checklist of things to consider when evaluating the value of players with their new teams.

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Playing Time/Role
A player can’t pile up statistics if they’re glued to the pine. Superstars who sign mega contracts with a new team or are dealt to a new team can reasonably be expected to play full time, obviously. It’s not always so obvious how others will fit in with their new teams. If a position player has a sizable platoon split and there’s an obvious platoon partner on their new team, it stands to reason they’ll typically be used in tandem. Other position players might not have a notable platoon split, and their talent level could be comparable to the incumbent at their position. In those cases, a spring training competition for playing time can reasonably be expected. The earlier the fantasy draft, the more speculation will be required when evaluating the players in the hypothetical competition for playing time.

The same idea applies for potential back-of-the-rotation pitchers who join new clubs and are in competition for a rotation spot or relievers who join a new team and are in competition for high-leverage roles in the bullpen. In some cases, rolling the dice in early fantasy drafts on players without a secure role can yield a tidy profit. The downside and upside of the players in question, as well as your league size, scoring format, and roster sizes, are all things gamers must consider when weighing the validity of drafting these players. Expanding on the scoring format idea, in leagues using holds or saves plus holds as a category, it’s not as risky drafting a reliever who is competing for a closer job, but could ultimately lose out.

Lineup Spot
Again, superstars (namely those who are elite hitters) are likely to call a premium spot in the batting order home with their new teams. Having said that, different lineup spots provide different statistical expectations, even the premium spots in the order. A table-setter hitting first or second has a higher ceiling for runs than a hitter projected to bat third or cleanup, for instance. On the flip side, hitting third or cleanup provides more RBI potential. On superstar-laden teams, it can be tricky guessing where their new addition will slot into the batting order. Although, a deeper and more talented lineup a new addition joins is better able to support statistical contributions in non-premium lineup spots. For example, a position player who previously hit fifth in a bad lineup could actually get a bump in value from hitting seventh in the Yankees’ order. Accurately guessing a player changing teams claims a premium lineup spot can be a boon for drafters, especially when a player somewhat unexpectedly secures a cushy spot in the order.

League Change for Pitchers
This could be a temporary consideration as the time appears to be nearing for a universal designated hitter. For the time being, however, a pitcher moving from the American League to the National League gets a slight boost in value, all other factors being equal. The part following the comma is the kicker, though. In all likelihood, all other factors aren’t equal with one major forthcoming factor being the most important to consider. Getting back to pitchers changing leagues, NL pitchers have totaled an incrementally higher strikeout percentage and a lower ERA than their AL counterparts in recent seasons. Intuitively, this makes sense. It’s advantageous to face a lineup that doesn’t include a designated hitter for the pitcher. FanGraphs provides league statistics, and you can check the AL stats from 2017-2019 here and the NL stats from 2017-2019 here.

Park Factors
This is probably the most obvious variable to consider for players changing teams. While this is a slightly hyperbolic example, gamers and pundits alike expected a leap in production from Christian Yelich when he was dealt from the Marlins to the Brewers prior to his 2018 NL MVP campaign. One of the primary reasons for the optimism was ditching extremely pitcher-friendly, homer-suppressing Marlins park for run-boosting, homer-inflating Miller Park as his home digs. Ballpark upgrades for hitters aren’t always going to be that obvious, but gamers can consult our ballpark factors landing page and toggle from “All” splits to “LHB” or “RHB” in order to evaluate the impact of changing parks on a hitter. Looking at the “All” splits can be helpful when evaluating a pitcher’s outlook with their new team. Using park factors in conjunction with a pitcher’s batted ball data can be helpful when looking for sneaky values.

Not all homer-friendly parks enhance run scoring. Conversely, not all run-suppressing parks depress homers. With that in mind, a groundball pitcher changing teams to a homer-enhancing park that suppresses runs can make for an under-the-radar target. Or perhaps a flyball pitcher moving to a high run-scoring environment that suppresses homers shouldn’t be dropped in the rankings due to their new team and home park.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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