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Franmil Reyes - Petco Power Hitter?


Franmil Reyes hit 16 home runs in 87 games in his rookie campaign, a 30-HR pace. Historically, hitting home runs at Petco Park has been quite difficult. Since moving to the stadium in 2004, the Padres only have had six 30-HR hitters, ranking 26th in baseball in that time, and four of those were Adrian Gonzalez. Additionally, at both the team and individual level, both the Padres and their opponents have homered far more often when San Diego is not the venue.

This is all a long way of asking, what will Petco mean for Reyes and his homer totals in 2019 if he puts in a full season of at-bats?

Let's evaluate Reyes, his prodigious power, and the effect his home stadium might have this coming season.

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The Petco Effect

The first thing we should note when asking this question is Franmil’s home-road splits in 2018. He hit eight home runs at Petco and another eight on the road. His 137 PA at home were 11 fewer than he had on the road, so the evenness in HR was not the result of a disparity in PA.

That was easy, wasn’t it? Reyes has the power to overcome Petco Park; article over! Except the conclusion isn’t necessarily accurate and it would be malpractice to stop now.

Looking at the home-road splits of those six Padres with 30 home runs since 2004 shows us this:

Year Player Total Home HR/PA Away HR/PA
2007 Adrian Gonzalez 30 10/340 20/380
2008 Adrian Gonzalez 36 14/341 22/359
2009 Adrian Gonzalez 40 12/335 28/346
2010 Adrian Gonzalez 31 11/335 20/358
2012 Chase Headley 31 13/345 18/354
2017 Wil Myers 30 8/307 22/342

 

Padres Opponents
Home 971/43982 1092/46956
Away 1187/42328 1329/45623

That is not-great historical evidence for San Diego home run hitters. But the results fit with the park’s longtime reputation as a pitcher’s park. That Reyes bucked the trend might be good news, but the sample is awfully small, only 285 PA and 16 homers. There is more to be examined.

 

A Change in 2018

In 2018, Petco played somewhat smaller than usual, with a one-year park factor of 98 for hitters, compared to a multi-year park factor of 94 by the Baseball Reference statistics. According to ESPN.com, Petco was the 16th-best park for home runs in 2018—just above Fenway and its occasional Green Monster cheapo—after rating 29th in 2017. If that becomes a trend, it is also good news for Franmil Reyes, and indeed all Padres hitters. But given there have been no structural changes to Petco since 2013, it’s dangerous to assume a trend towards the average will reveal itself in the coming years. That said, power hitting at Petco had nowhere to go but up entering 2018. (Or almost nowhere—at least 29th isn’t 30th!)

Another thing that might help Reyes is that his home runs are impressive. Of the 230 players who hit at least 10 home runs in 2018, Reyes was tied with Khris Davis and Ronald Acuña at a 105.9 mph exit velocity on his bombs, ranking 30th. Those homers traveled an average of 404 feet, 45th-best in baseball.  It’s no doubt good to see Reyes in the 80+ percentiles in those metrics. Because home runs are already the best-hit baseballs on average, to be hitting among the most impressive home runs probably means you can lose a couple mph and still hit balls out of the park.  If a ball is hit far enough and hard enough, no park will contain it.

Surprisingly, however, some of Reyes’ least impressive home runs in 2018 also came at Petco. His two slowest-hit homers of the year, at 92.0 and 96.6 mph, came at home. So, you can get out of Petco without hitting a ball 110. You could probably have guessed that, but it’s still good news.

 

Other Criteria

That said, when looking at how many home runs a park might cost, some things hold more interest than the baseballs that did escape at home. Those things are road homers and flyouts. Unfortunately, we start to talk about really small samples at this point.

On the road, Reyes seems to have gotten his biggest boost from Miller Park, where he homered twice in August. Neither went 400 feet. Unfortunately, Statcast appears to have put the Hit Tracker Online out of commission, which is the only place I know of where you could overlay one stadium’s layout atop another’s. But neither flight path appears as if it would have been sufficient to escape Petco’s confines (links here off of Jacob Barnes, and here off of Chase Anderson). Miller is 374 feet in right-center and 345 to right while Petco is 391 to right-center and 322 in right. Certainly, Reyes’ homer off of Anderson into right-center would have stayed in Petco; it’s less clear on the homer off Barnes since it’s not quite right down the line.

As for outs, two of Reyes’ three barreled outs in 2018 came at home, including a Kyle Freeland pitch he hit 387 feet at 105.8 mph while lining out to Charlie Blackmon in center field. Some players, like Nick Castellanos, have hit into way worse luck than three barreled outs, but that’s the subject of an article in progress.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to every Petco homer Reyes hit in 2018, and here’s every road homer.

So yes, on the whole, it does appear that Petco Park continues to limit power production relative to some other facilities, and Franmil Reyes should be no exception.

 

Bottom Line

Like most modestly successful rookies, Franmil Reyes requires a bit of wait-and-see. His overall Statcast performance in 2018 was no joke, at least. He rated 45th out of 332 players with 150 batted ball events with a barreled ball in 7.4% of plate appearances (including strikeouts; his 11.6 percentage excluding K’s rated 39th). He hit 85 baseballs at 95 mph or better, a 47.0% ranking 25th between Justin Upton and Acuña. Once again, this is good news for trying launch balls out of San Diego’s state-of-the-art ballpark.

However, these numbers don’t particularly mesh with his xwOBA of .330, 30 points lower than his actual rookie mark of .360. His .280/.340/.498 triple slash also exceeded his expected batting average by 28 points and expected slugging by 49 points. Looking at those numbers might leave you expecting regression.

So, Petco Park: what does it mean for Franmil? You always want the players you’re rostering for home runs to play half their games in a stadium suitable for that purpose. However, if you’re at a point in the draft where you think Player A is the best option, you won’t pick Player B just because you wish Player A’s situation were even better. Where that point is for Reyes depends some on league structure, your rate stat(s) of choice and things of that nature.

Last year, Franmil Reyes proved that he has the capacity to hit big bombs off of Major League pitching. That’s not enough to go reaching, especially in standard batting average leagues, but he is certainly intriguing, wherever he calls home.

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