Boston’s right field just may have become a little more fantasy friendly as the club signed Cody Ross to a one year, $3M contract the other day. Initial plans are likely to platoon Ross and Ryan Sweeney, but if both perform as they have done so in the past, Ross should end up with the lion’s share of starts while Sweeney is relegated to a late-inning defensive replacement-type role. That would certainly put Ross on the map for both AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.
On the surface, it would appear as if Ross is declining. He went from hitting 20-plus home runs in 2008 and 2009 to just a meager 14 in each of his last two seasons. But in looking at park factors and the fact that Ross is predominately a pull hitter, you’ll see that it was more the move to AT&T Park that stifled his power, not necessarily a physical decline. Dolphin Stadium, as cavernous as it could be, did not play as poorly as AT&T for right-handed hitters. Sure, the dimensions were slightly bigger in left-center, but without the wind and cold-damp air, it still played well enough that Ross was able to clear the fences. AT&T was not so forgiving.
Now with the move to Fenway Park, a field that plays exceptionally well for right-handed hitters, Ross should see an increase in isolated power. He might not necessarily be clearing the Big Green Monster as regularly as you’d like, but he should pound enough doubles off the wall to help increase his batting average, OBP and RBI production. That’s not to say the home runs won’t follow. He still has the potential to hit 20-plus out this year given the shorter distance the ball needs to travel.
There are, however, a number of factors working against Ross which could make him a great early season pick up but an even better sell-high candidate by the mid-June. Obviously there is the possibility that Sweeney’s ability to successfully hit right-handed pitching could keep him in the lineup a little more often than Ross owners would like, despite Ross’ stronger power potential. That might not matter if Carl Crawford does, in fact, miss the start of the season and thus the team needs Ross over in left for a substantial part of April (maybe even some of May), but when Crawford does eventually return, Ross heads back into a platoon.
Then there’s the impending return of Ryan Kalish. The club has been very high on Kalish and likely would have given him first crack at the right field job had it not been for late-November shoulder surgery. With a late May/early June return, Ross could be relegated to an even worse platoon situation unless the club trades him.
So while the overall move to Boston is likely a favorable one for Ross, he is obviously going to have to live up to that power potential early on in order to keep himself relevant. So long as he comes out of camp healthy, something he failed to do last season, he should be able to do so. Expect an increase in his overall numbers early on, but get ready to deal him if you can find someone who thinks he’ll actually stick.