Prince Fielder’s Best Landing Spots

Prince Fielder is gonna make some serious bacon (er, soy) this winter. The meaty first baseman hits free agency as a 27-year-old boasting the third-highest home run total and tenth-best Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) among hitters since he became a full-time starter in 2006. Prince will be a premium fantasy pick no matter where he plays in 2012, but some parks are certainly more suited to his all-fields slugging than others.

To determine Fielder’s best landing spots, I identified potential suitors, found StatCorner’s left-handed home run park factors for those clubs’ stadiums and then used Baseball-Reference’s Play Index Tool to find what Fielder’s 2011 batting average, OBP and slugging percentage would have looked like if he had played in those stadiums instead of Miller Park (more details here).

The big takeaway? Park factors matter greatly. Fielder hit 38 home runs and slugged .566 in 2011 while playing in a venue that favors power hitters. Using Baseball Reference’s Tool, I found that Fielder’s HR total in other parks where he could play in 2012 ranged from 35 to 41, and his slugging percentage from .537 to .598. Fielder is an elite option no matter what, but how hitter-friendly his new park is (assuming Milwaukee can’t keep him) may determine just how high of a pick you’re willing to spend. Here are Fielder’s possible landing spots, from best to worst, with a quick look at how likely it is he’ll sign there.

1. New York Yankees
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 143
Adjusted Line: .317/.435/.598, 41 HR

It’s a long shot that Cecil’s son ends up wearing pinstripes. Mark Teixeira is under contract through 2016, Jesus Montero is considered more of a DH-in-waiting than a 120 game-a-year catcher, and aging, banged-up veterans Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter need some days off from the field. Still, there’s at least an outside shot that the club has confidence in Montero’s ability to stay behind the plate (or they use him as trade bait for a top-tier arm), and Yankee Stadium’s 314 foot marker down the right field line looks awfully inviting.

2. Texas Rangers
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 119
Adjusted Line: .318/.437/.598, 41 HR

Texas has its own premium free agent (C.J. Wilson) to attend to, and Josh Hamilton is free agent-eligible after 2012. But Fielder would be a substantial upgrade over Mitch Moreland, and money shouldn’t be an issue for team that has reached the World Series two years in a row, signed a whopping new TV deal last year, has seen its attendance climb by 10,000 fans per game since 2009 and has a fantastic farm system. While Fielder would have to play divisional games in pitcher-friendly parks in L.A., Oakland and Seattle, Rangers Ballpark would be a great fit.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 114
Adjusted Line: .311/.428/.587, 40 HR

Now, here’s a dark horse suitor. Under GM Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays got out from under Vernon Wells‘ cumbersome contract, signed Jose Bautista to what now looks like a very team-friendly contract extension and made an upside play on Colby Rasmus. With the resources to add significant payroll, a great base of young talent and the looming possibility of another Wild Card being added to the mix, Toronto could try to make a big splash in order to better compete with the titans of the AL East. The Rogers Centre is a nice park for lefty power hitters, and Adam Lind (low OBP) and Edwin Encarnacion (injuries, leaden glovework; Toronto has a $3.5 million option on him for 2012) both have their drawbacks at first base. Unless the Jays offer considerably more than other clubs, though, would Prince play in Canada for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since ’93?

4. Boston Red Sox
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 79
Adjusted Line: .311/.428/.587, 40 HR

Fenway is a tough place for lefties to hit home runs, but it does increase doubles substantially, with a 142 park factor for two-baggers. First base is obviously covered with Adrian Gonzalez, but Fielder could slot in at DH if David Ortiz walks. Apocalyptic, chicken-scarfing and beer-sipping late-season slide aside, Boston is still one of the game’s best franchises and has money to spend. They would get much younger by going with Fielder over the soon-to-be-36-year-old Papi, too.

5. Baltimore Orioles
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 118
Adjusted Line: .302/.419/.568, 38 HR

The O’s could hide Mark Reynolds‘ glove permanently, moving him to DH and adding Fielder to the lineup in hopes that Big Veggie, a strong up-the-middle position player corps and turnaround seasons from the likes of Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman can make the team competitive. But really, would it make sense for Baltimore to expend so much of its resources on one player currently in his prime when they’re clearly the worst team in the AL East, with the worst farm system? Camden Yards would make for a cozy home park, though.

6. Chicago Cubs
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 119
Adjusted Line: .295/.410/.557, 37 HR

As you may have heard, the Cubs are getting a bit of a front-office makeover. Chicago has large sums of cash coming off its books, with Carlos Pena a free agent and Aramis Ramirez quite possibly signing elsewhere. Even so, the Cubs are an old, expensive team with a middling farm system, not exactly the sort of mix that lends itself to spending $150+ million on one guy who’s playing his best baseball right now. Watching Prince routinely hit bombs onto Waveland and Sheffield would be fun, however.

7. Cleveland Indians
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 107
Adjusted Line: .299/.415/.566, 38 HR

The Indians remained semi-competitive this summer until Detroit’s late-season surge, but it was no thanks to Matt LaPorta and his sub-.300 OBP. The CC Sabathia trade pickup turns 27 this winter, has over 1,000 career plate appearances and is a career .238/.304/.397 hitter. It’s time to move on. The front of the rotation is strong with Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, and there’s a ton of position player talent with the likes of Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Adding Fielder’s big bat to the mix could push them into that playoff sweet spot.

8. Washington Nationals
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 94
Adjusted Line: .294/.409/.556, 37 HR

Washington’s big free agent foray last offseason, Jayson Werth, hasn’t exactly gone to plan. The Nats owe a one-armed Adam LaRoche $9 million next year, and signing Fielder would mean putting a slugging-but-plodding Mike Morse in a corner outfield spot full-time. Plus, a mega-contract for Ryan Zimmerman looms a few years down the line. But you can’t rule out the possibility of Washington trying to add a premium bat to the lineup, hoping to climb the NL East with a Strasburg and Zimmermann-led rotation and Bryce Harper closing in on the majors. Nationals Park isn’t the best place for lefty power, though.

9. Florida Marlins
Left-handed HR Park Factor: N/A
Adjusted Line: N/A

The Marlins, who move into a new Miami ballpark in 2012, figure to add payroll in the coming seasons. Though Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are best suited at first, one or both could be traded or each could play a different position (Sanchez at third, Morrison in left field) if the Fish are willing to take a big defensive hit. It’s hard to know how the new stadium will play, though it’s supposed feature deeper dimensions nearly all the way around compared to Sun Life Stadium, save for down the right field line. Without knowing fence heights, game temperature, altitude and wind, this is just a shot in the dark ranking. But every Prince homer would active this epic, $2.5 million sculpture beyond the outfield fence:

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 90
Adjusted Line: .295/.410/.557, 37 HR

After missing out on the playoffs and ranking in the middle of the pack offensively, the Halos could experiment by moving Mark Trumbo across the diamond and inking Fielder. L.A. should have some cash to spend if management is willing to match last year’s $140+ million payroll. Complicating matters (on top of Trumbo’s potential position switch) is Kendrys Morales‘ return after nearly two lost seasons due to an ankle injury suffered during a walkoff celebration and Bobby Abreu‘s continued presence after the Angels let the lefty-challenged, low-power DH’s $9 million option vest for 2012. Angels Stadium isn’t exactly a hitter’s haven, anyway.

11. Seattle Mariners
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 95
Adjusted Line: .293/.408/.550, 36 HR

It doesn’t seem likely that the M’s would pull the plug on Cliff Lee trade chip Justin Smoak after an admittedly mundane age-24 season, and the team seems willing to give Mike Carp regular playing time at the DH slot. Still, Seattle had the worst park-adjusted offense in the majors for a second straight season in 2011. Safeco isn’t as soul-crushing to lefty hitters as it is to righties, but you still don’t want to see Prince end up here.

12. San Francisco Giants
Left-handed HR Park Factor: 82
Adjusted Line: .286/.399/.537, 35 HR

San Francisco is stuck with Aubrey Huff at $12 million next year (salary plus buyout on 2013 option), and Brandon Belt may well be the long-term option at first base. However, the Giants could get in on Fielder if they view Belt as a viable corner outfielder. That wouldn’t make many fantasy owners happy, given the number AT&T Park does on power numbers, but we are talking about a pitching-rich team that missed out on the playoffs due to the worst park-adjusted offense in the National League.



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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


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Luke
Guest
Luke

Seems like SF & CLE would be wise to go after Fielder hard, as he could drive their offenses enough to make the playoffs next year.

Brad Johnson
Member

Cleveland at least is probably wary of the back end of a Fielder deal. Hafner’s sapped value and flexibility from that roster for years now and Fielder is a fair risk to be a similar burden entering year 5 of 7.

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