Raimel Tapia, Dominic Smith And Extreme Park Factors In MILB
In 2013, Rockies prospect Rosell Herrera rode a South Atlantic League MVP award to top-100 prospect status as a member of the Asheville Tourists. Lost in the .343/.419/.515 triple slash line was the fact Herrera’s home park had a 297 foot right field fence. An honest look at park factors would have helped predict his drop in performance. Being one who touted the young switch hitter after seeing him on multiple occasions, his breakout was something to be excited about. When wanting to believe in a prospect’s ability, it’s easy to overlook the obvious.
After all, Rosell Herrera batted .384/.455/.635 at home and .308/.386/.411 on the road. Away from the friendly confines of McCormick Field, his power production was pedestrian given his 6-foot-3 frame. Now batting .244/.302/.335 in the California League, a look back at the numbers, park factors and scouting information should have led to cause for concern.
Before Herrera, Ian Stewart belted 30 home runs in the same park en route to a top-5 overall prospect ranking. He never surpassed 19 round trippers again and disappointed as a MLB player. Today, he’s bouncing around from organization-to-organization, playing in Triple-A for the Los Angeles Angels.
In 2014, it’s Raimel Tapia‘s turn to be praised after a breakout campaign in Asheville. Overall, his .327/.384/.456 line is impressive. However, a look at his splits leave him a lesser hitter than Herrera, a player who cratered the following season.
Home: .350/.391/.534 (9 home runs)
Away: .304/.377/.380 (0 home runs)
Park factors present McCormick as a forgiving park and Tapia’s numbers reflect just that. And while this is the norm, it’s important to point out exceptions to the rule. Ryan McMahon (Scouting Report) has almost an identical slugging percentage at home and on the road with more home runs away from Asheville. David Dahl (Scouting Report) had six home runs at home against four away. Since being promoted to High-A, he has as many home runs as Rosell Herrera has hit this season.
At ROTOscouting, we’ll be the first to warn against scouting the stats. In this instance, every player except the 29-year old Stewart has been scouted in person by this author across multiple games and series. In the case of Dahl and Herrera, it’s a multi-year look. The best evaluators combine in person looks and the statistics to support the profile. If the pieces don’t fit like a puzzle, the projection takes a hit. In the case of Raimel Tapia (Scouting Report), park factors, production and historical context are combined with scouting notes and video to conclude the top-100 prospect is a risky bet to repeat his success in 2015.
Park Factors And Dominic Smith
Speaking of risky prospects, Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (Scouting Report) has one home run in 124 games this season in Savannah. Widely regarded amongst the most difficult stadiums for left-handed power, prospect followers have pointed to park factors as reason for Smith’s power outage. Admittedly, the Sand Gnats home park is hell on lefties. For the 2008-2010 seasons, it was my scouting home. However, it doesn’t mean there’s a force field in right field protecting passers by.
On occasion, former Mets mid-level prospect Sean Ratliff ran into a fastball and beat the right field fence. The longest home run ever seen in person was by former top-100 prospect Cody Johnson (Scouting Report) off of a 95 mph Maikel Cleto (Scouting Report) fastball. Regardless of park factors, quality hitters with the ability to barrel baseballs run into something. Other players do it by accident. Yes, Dominic Smith would produce more power at McCormick Field than Historic Grayson Stadium, but it’s not a primary reason for a season with one home run. After all, Smith’s been a better hitter at home than on the road (.703 OPS to .668).
Instead, Smith’s power outage is due to a flat swing plane and frame which has become soft. In both batting practice and game action, the left-handed hitter struggled to barrel the ball. And when he did, it was a hard ground ball or line drive. Without the ability to lift and drive the baseball, a player will struggle to slug home runs at a little league field.
In the end, both Dominic Smith and Raimel Tapia were projected to become MLB players after scouting them. Neither was considered a future star, but it’s possible to squint and see both as average regulars. Ultimately, park factors do play a role in how to accurately project prospects at the MLB level. And while the information helps paint the picture, consider it more of an additional color on the palette than the canvas itself.
29 Aug 2014 / Mike Newman / 2
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