Granderson's value drops with Mets
How does that saying go again? You win some left-handed hitters who can exploit Yankee Stadium's short porch, you lose some left-handed hitters who can exploit Yankee Stadium's short porch?
What? No? Well, judging by the news of the past two weeks, you might understand my having been mistaken.
First we had the signings of left-handed hitters Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, then Friday morning's news that Robinson Cano was headed to Seattle. And only minutes later, word circulated that the New York Mets and Curtis Granderson had agreed to a four-year, $60-million contract, pending a physical.
It's four players whose power potential is influenced by changing ballparks, and in the example of Granderson, there's much cause for alarm. After all, there might not be a hitter in baseball who will suffer a more dramatic impact as a direct result of changing venues this winter than Granderson.
Granderson and Yankee Stadium might have been the perfect marriage among hitters. During his 10-year major league career, in which only five of those years was Yankee Stadium in existence, only four of them his home, he has hit 64 of his 217 home runs there. While that still might not sound like much, consider that he has averaged one homer per four games played at Yankee Stadium, compared to one per six games played everywhere else.
Granderson also showed a marked change in his hitting approach following his December 2009 trade to the Yankees, surrendering a noticeable amount of contact while increasing his propensity to pull the ball as well as hit it in the air. To illustrate, he had a 78.1 percent contact rate in his final three years for the Detroit Tigers (2007-09), but a 70.5 percent rate in his four years with the Yankees (2010-13); his 49.7 percent rate of balls in play that were pulled was also eighth highest among 133 hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances during the past four seasons, and his 46.4 percent fly ball rate was fifth highest among that same group of 133.
That's an approach that works at Yankee Stadium, where the right-field foul pole stands a scant 314 feet and parts of right field measure 353 feet from home plate, but it's not going to result in similar success at Citi Field, where the right-field foul pole measures 330 feet and right-center field 375 feet (and that's even after the team moved the fences in).
In addition, while Granderson's 2013 injury issues were mostly a product of bad luck -- he broke his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat of the spring, then broke a finger when he was hit by another eight games after returning from the DL -- he showed some skills decline when healthy, generating less solid contact and struggling more with hard stuff. As a 33-year-old, he's probably in the early stages of a career decline, and it's worth asking: If he's in need of further tweaks to his swing, a la his successful adjustment to left-handed pitching as a result of sessions working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long in 2010, wouldn't his fantasy owners feel more comfortable knowing he'd have the familiarity of Long as his tutor? That's not a designed criticism of Dave Hudgens, the Mets' hitting coach, but rather people's greater comfort with personal connections that already have produced past success.
The smart play is to downgrade Granderson's home run potential from, say, 35 -- adjusting a theoretical Yankee Stadium expectation for age -- to 25-30, which isn't quite at a level that makes up for his poor batting average contributions. Formerly my No. 127 player overall, and No. 31 outfielder -- both of those at the time estimating a chance that he'd leave the Yankees -- Granderson now slips to 150th and 34th.
Fantasy Hot Stove
Stay on top of the fantasy implications of all of the offseason's major deals and get a leg up on the 2014 baseball season. Updated ranks »