2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Updated MLB Park Factor analysis
Some of last season’s data was skewed by three distinctly different baseballs being used throughout 2022, so we’ll continue to use mostly three-year samples when examining the following Park Factors set to affect fantasy baseball in 2023.
Detroit, New York (Mets) and Toronto all made offseason dimensional changes that need to be noted. Baltimore moved its fences back last season and then saw its HR/FB% drop nearly in half compared to the prior year. Put differently, Camden Yards was Statcast’s top-ranked park for home runs by a wide margin in 2021 and fell to bottom-five last season.
Park dimensions clearly can have major fantasy implications — it’s probably not a coincidence that Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle suffered the worst luck among all hitters last season when it comes to home runs versus expected homers (and Anthony Santander made it three Orioles in the bottom right).
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However, the changes heading into 2023 appear to favor hitters, with Comerica Park, Citi Field and the Rogers Centre all moving their fences in to varying degrees:
-Detroit: Comerica Park has moved in its center-field wall and changed its right-field dimensions after Detroit decreased homers by left-handed batters an MLB-high 39% the past three seasons. This is likely noteworthy given that Comerica Park featured the lowest HR/FB% among stadiums in 2022.
-New York: Citi Field has played as arguably baseball’s best pitcher’s park but moved in the right-field fences for this season.
-Toronto: Rogers Centre already increased homers by 18% last year and might have transformed into a true launching pad during the offseason. Blue Jays pitchers should probably be lowered in fantasy rankings, given the new park dimensions in Toronto. Adding Kevin Kiermaier’s glove will help, but this could have a real impact. Meanwhile, all Blue Jays hitters deserve a boost up fantasy rankings, including Matt Chapman.
We’ll now examine the best pitching parks before moving to the most favorable places to hit, and we'll break those down further between runs scored and homers (separated by handedness).
Most of the following stats are courtesy of The Bill James Handbook.
The following parks are listed with the most extreme at the top, with +/-% being the difference compared to league average:
PITCHER'S PARKS (runs scored, 2020-22)
Tampa Bay Rays -15%
San Diego Padres -15%
Seattle Mariners -13%
New York Mets -13%
St. Louis Cardinals -11%
Tampa Bay pitchers benefit from both a terrific coaching staff and a home park that decreases run scoring as much as any park in baseball. Tropicana Field has also increased strikeouts an AL-high 9% the past three years, with only Petco Park higher (10%) over that span. And while San Diego has been neutral for homers, Tampa Bay has decreased them by 15%. Tyler Glasnow and Pete Fairbanks could easily be the best starter and reliever on a per-inning basis this season.
Luis Castillo went from one of the most extreme hitter’s parks in Cincinnati to one of the most favorable pitcher’s parks in Seattle and deserves a boost up fantasy rankings as a result. Meanwhile, Teoscar Hernández almost certainly would’ve put up bigger numbers in Toronto’s new confines if he hadn't been traded to Seattle in the offseason. He gets a real fantasy downgrade with the move. The Mariners played in the game’s toughest pitcher’s park last year, according to Statcast.
Jacob deGrom is obviously good enough to pitch anywhere, and health is all that matters with him. But he’s going from arguably MLB’s best pitcher’s park to a neutral one in Texas. … Justin Verlander won’t see a dramatic difference between Houston and New York, but Citi Field certainly helps (even with RF moving in). There’s a reason Pete Alonso has hit 57% of his homers on the road throughout his career.
Jordan Montgomery gets a more favorable home park in St. Louis after last season’s trade and pitching most of his career in New York (and in the AL East); Yankee Stadium has increased home runs by 13% the past three seasons, while Busch Stadium has decreased HR by 14% over that span. St. Louis is an underrated pitcher’s park, but it’s not holding back Tyler O’Neill’s Popeye arms.
After being one of baseball’s best pitcher’s parks for years, including the toughest on left-handed power in MLB history (imagine not thinking Barry Bonds is the GOAT), San Francisco has become a much fairer place to hit, thanks to numerous changes. The Bay Area's climate continues to suppress homers, but SF should be considered a neutral park for run-scoring moving forward.
HITTER'S PARKS (runs scored, 2020-22)
Colorado Rockies +37%
Cincinnati Reds +23%
Boston Red Sox +19%
Kansas City Royals +9%
Los Angeles Angels +9%
Rockies fantasy pitchers remain mostly untouchable, but it might be worth noting that Germán Márquez owns a career 3.77 ERA and 1.17 WHIP on the road, compared to 5.08 and 1.40 in Colorado. Coors Field doesn’t just help batted balls; it has also decreased strikeouts an MLB-high 16% the past three years. Most players perform better at home; note that Márquez is an upcoming trade candidate with only one year remaining on his contract … Coors Field boosted batting average an MLB-high 13% for left-handed hitters last season, when it also increased scoring an MLB-high 46%; the next highest was 17% in 2022. Nolan Jones is a real fantasy sleeper.
Meanwhile, Carlos Estévez should be taken as a serious candidate to take over as the Angels’ closer now that he no longer has to deal with Coors Field’s extreme elevation. The Angels have a wide-open bullpen (and by that I mean not very good — the Astros and Rays each have four different relievers projected for more WAR than anyone in L.A.’s pen), and Estévez watched his K/9 jump from 6.3 at home to 10.8 on the road, while his xFIP fell from 5.51 to 3.02 when away from Coors Field last season.
The problem with hitting half the time in Colorado is it comes with a “Coors Field tax,” meaning it’s much harder to perform while on the road thanks to the difference in altitude. Given that road factor, as well as Great American Ballpark increasing homers 29% more than Coors Field the past three seasons, there’s a real argument that Cincinnati is the absolute best place for fantasy hitters to call home … I love Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene as much as anyone, but the young hurlers are going to have to deal with some of the worst run support in baseball aswhile pitching in a hitter’s paradise.
Fenway Park suppresses homers for lefties but is otherwise one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball. Only Coors Field has boosted batting average more than Boston (+11%) the past three years. Masataka Yoshida is slated to hit leadoff, and some projection systems have him recording a top-10 wRC+ as high as 140, so he’s clearly being massively undervalued going outside the top 60 outfielders in early Yahoo drafts.
Kauffman Stadium is one of the oddest in MLB; it’s without question a hitter’s park overall while among the leaders in boosting runs scored and batting average (and decreasing strikeouts), but KC is also one of the toughest parks in which to hit homers. “My Cousin” Vinnie Pasquantino is no doubt a beast (who’ll also benefit from no shifting), but his fantasy value will suffer some from playing in a park that has decreased HR to LHB by 23% the past three seasons.
HOME RUNS (separated by handedness)
Parks that boost RIGHTIES
Los Angeles Dodgers +44%
Cincinnati Reds +39%
Colorado Rockies +26%
Chicago White Sox +22%
Los Angeles Angels +15%
Miguel Vargas is slated for a regular role with the Dodgers and will soon get 2B eligibility, so he’s someone to target in fantasy leagues. J.D. Martinez is also a great bet to rebound in one of the most favorable parks for right-handed power while hitting in the middle of L.A.’s lineup … While pitching for LAD is usually a huge help to most pitchers (hello there, Noah Syndergaard), Dodger Stadium was a horrible fit for Andrew Heaney. The flyball-heavy left-hander has major fantasy upside should health cooperate now that he's pitching in a neutral park for power in Texas. Heaney recorded a 32.9 K-BB% on the road last season — Shohei Ohtani led all starters with a 26.5 K-BB%!
Going from Petco Park to GAB, Wil Myers sees about as big of a park upgrade as a fantasy hitter can get ... Spencer Steer is a fantasy sleeper at a thin third-base position, while Jonathan India is another bounce-back candidate in 2023.
[2023 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP]
It’s wild that Kris Bryant didn’t hit one homer at Coors Field last season after signing a $180-plus million contract with Colorado. I’m bold enough to go on record and predict that won't happen again in 2023 … Brendan Rodgers saw his OPS drop from .875 at home to .588 on the road last season (and his 117 wRC+ fell to 65). Put differently, his Coors Field season pace was roughly .313-20-95-95, while his road was .218-6-50-35.
Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada are all much better hitters than they showed last season and will also benefit from their home park when they bounce back with better health in 2023.
Count me among those who believe in Taylor Ward’s breakout performance before suffering last year’s injury, and his home park will help his 2023 production with him slated to bat leadoff.
Parks that boost LEFTIES
Cincinnati Reds +63%
Chicago White Sox +45%
Los Angeles Angels +32%
New York Yankees +19%
Milwaukee Brewers +12%
Tyler Mahle has a career 5.02 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP despite 335 Ks over 285.1 innings at Great American Ballpark; he goes from a launching pad in Cincinnati that increased homers an MLB-high 49% the past three seasons to one in Minnesota that has decreased HR by 9% in that span. If rest truly healed Mahle’s shoulder woes, he could go down as one of 2023’s best SP fantasy bargains with the benefit of a strong Twins defense as well … Jake Fraley and TJ Friedl are legit fantasy sleepers as left-handed hitters in GAB (and Joey Votto maybe shouldn’t be written off, barring health).
Andrew Benintendi had 29 expected home runs in his new home in Chicago in 2021. He’s still just 28 years old, capable of swiping 10-plus bags and slated to bat toward the top of the White Sox’s lineup after signing a $75 million contract, yet Benintendi isn’t being drafted as a top-50 outfielder, despite the major park upgrade.
Angel Stadium continues to be one of the best parks for left-handed power since the lowering of the right-field wall in 2018 coinciding with Ohtani’s arrival (like what the Giants did with Bonds, only the opposite). Jared Walsh might be the cheapest source of 30 homers now that he’s back healthy and playing in one of baseball’s best parks for lefty power.
Gerrit Cole remains the top fantasy pitcher on my board. He’s coming off a “down” year thanks mostly to his allowing an MLB-high 33 homers in a season when “Goldilocks Balls” were used. Not to mention, last season featured an abnormally high number of Yankees games.
Jesse Winker dealt with injuries as well, but he might be 2022’s best example of how switching home parks can destroy a hitter’s fantasy value. After being dealt to Seattle, he finished with 10 fewer homers than his previous season in Cincinnati despite playing 25-plus more games and significantly increasing his flyball%. Winker’s HR/FB% went from 20.7% in GAB to 9.7% last season. He deserves a fantasy boost now that he'll be hitting in an extremely friendly park for homers.
Finally, Rowdy Tellez has a chance to have an even better season than last year’s breakout. He should be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new no-shift rules, and he'll continue to be greatly helped by Milwaukee’s park (Tellez’s home/road splits last year: 22 HR/13 HR, .537 SLG/.391 SLG, 137 wRC+/85 wRC+).