Adrian Beltre and the Texas Rangers have come together on a six-year contract, implanting him as their starting third baseman and moving team leader Michael Young to a DH/utility role. Vladimir Guerrero is still looking for work.
Coming off of his best season since 2004, Beltre got the mega contract he was looking for. On top of that, he stays in the American League and will play his home games in one of the best offensive parks in baseball. However, he is going to miss the Green Monster.
Though Beltre isn’t necessarily a dead pull hitter, the majority of his power comes from when he pulls the ball.
18 of Beltre’s 28 homers went to left field, his pull side. Eight went to center and only two went to the opposite field. Looking back on his splits since 2004, most season’s saw a similar outcome with regards to home run direction. While Fenway’s Green Monster played to that strength, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington may not be as kind. The chart below shows most of Beltre’s balls in play at Fenway park last season (I excluded singles) overlaid on Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Only one home run from Fenway last season clearly leaves the yard at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. However, there could be differences in heat, air, etc that may have affected the flight of a few of those, but the image does speak for itself.
Beltre played three games in Arlington last season and went 3-for-13 with one double and one home run. If we use the same overlay technique as above, Beltre’s double in Arlington looks to be a clear home run in Fenway, depending on the arc of course. For his career playing in Arlington, Beltre is 67-for-219 (.306 AVG) with 18 doubles and nine home runs.
Having hit 25 or more home runs every season since 2005 — with the exception of an injury plagued 2009 — Beltre looks to be a sure bet for 20-plus homers this season. However, it is highly unlikely that he exceeds his 2010 output and likely that he does not match it. If we assume — and I have projected him for 25 homers — that he’ll have a ceiling for value in the home run category, we have to take a close look at his projected AVG.
I have Beltre projected to hit .282 in 2011, which is right in line with Bill James (.283 projected AVG) and the fan’s projections on Fan Graphs (.289 projected AVG). Beltre’s .331 BABIP was the highest of his career and, though he hit for a slightly higher AVG on the road in 2010, his BABIP at home was higher.
Based on the numbers above, we can’t really say that Fenway Park caused a huge spike in Beltre’s extra base hit stats. Beltre had a better AB/2B and AB/HR rates on the road in 2010. Therefore, the only thing we can look at with regard to a regression is his BABIP.
As stated earlier, Beltre’s BABIP in 2010 was the highest of his career. Given the length of his track record and a career BABIP of .294, a regression is likely regardless of whether he stayed in Fenway or moved to another park. In Texas, there is much more room in left field to center field, where Beltre hits for most of his extra bases, than in Fenway. Ultimately, that factor alone should lead to more outs on fly balls and even some line drives. To think Beltre is going to hit .320-plus again would be wishful thinking. However, he isn’t going to hurt fantasy owners in the AVG category either.
Ron Washington has stated that Beltre will bat fourth behind Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, so Beltre’s RBI numbers should easily surpass the 90 mark. He’ll also have the likes of Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler batting behind him, so 80-plus runs scored would be a lock if Cruz and Kinsler are healthy (that’s sort of kind of a BIG IF).
All in all, Beltre should be worth a 3B pick after Longoria, Wright and Zimmerman come off the board on draft day.
On the surface, the Beltre deal seems to kill any keeper value Michael Young would have had. Though his value is already diminishing as he ages into his mid-30′s. Young will be the primary DH and keeper league owners are going to have to hope that he plays in enough games subbing in at 2B, SS and 1B to gain some type of position eligibility other than DH.
What is even more interesting is what this does to Vladimir Guerrero’s value. He was a monster in Texas, but now needs to find a new home. Unlike Beltre, Vlad didn’t fare nearly as well on the road as he did at home last season, hitting .315 in Arlington and .284 on the road. Other good hitter’s parks in the American League such as Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and Toronto all have their DH situations locked up. I wasn’t expecting a repeat anyway, but those looking for Vlad to continue his 2010 success into 2011 should look elsewhere.