MLB Offseason Report: Nolan Arenado traded to the Cardinals
Greg Jewett breaks down the trade of all-star third basemen Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Remaining eminently flexible in fantasy baseball enables one to assess a player's value correctly in an ever changing marketplace. Last year, the Rockies explored trade offers centered around their star, Nolan Arenado . After promising Arenado the franchise would build a winner around him, they won 71 games during a full season. During 2020, Colorado started strong but cratered in the standings going 26-34, which projects to a 70 win season over 162 games. Arenado played through a lingering shoulder injury hoping to propel the Rockies forward to no avail.
Enter the Cardinals, who flirted with this move last off-season. Colorado will not only move Arenado to them, they're willing to pay $50 million dollars of his pending contract to do so:
Although the exact details of the trade remain unclear pending MLB approval, how this affects Arenado in terms of fantasy remains at the forefront of our thoughts. Noted analyst Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs suggests using two parts road statistics plus one part home numbers when formulating how a player may do upon leaving Coors Field. Of course, where a player ends up going also factors into the equation like D.J. LeMahieu, who reached a new level of production with the Yankees.
There's also research from MLB.com's Mike Petriello in regards to how a change of scenery could impact a hitter as talented as Arenado which can be accessed here. Weighing all of these factors along with Arenado's injury last season, tossing 2020 into the trash bin makes sense when predicting his outcomes for 2021. With this in mind, taking Arenado's home and road splits into account from 2017-through-2019 provides a larger sample to mine results from.
Arenado at Coors 2017-through-2019
Implying Arenado's fantasy numbers at home prove to be robust may be understating them. First, here's how they look as a whole:
Arenado at Colorado: 235 games, 995 plate appearances, 186 runs, 63 home runs, 208 RBI, two stolen bases; .345/.404/.656, 8.8 BB%, 15.3 K%
For the visual crowd, here's his spray chart including fly balls and line drives hit in this time frame with St. Louis as the overlay:
Coors rewards players in terms of batting average on balls in play (BABIP), especially batted ball events in the air. However, Arenado ran less at home and as his heatmap of the same information displays, he could benefit from hitting more to center field along with right-field in St. Louis:
Similar to the hitter reference earlier, LeMahieu used his right-field hitting approach to aplomb in Yankee Stadium. Now, Arenado does not get the same rosy ballpark effects as his former teammate, in fact St. Louis ranks near the bottom in them. Which segues nicely into how he performed outside of Coors Field.
Arenado away from Coors 2017-through-2019
One size fits all analysis does not help fantasy owners calculate correctly for the future, so plan on figuring out Arenado with some strategies seeing the whole equation. As referenced above, all Rockies hitters struggle on the road since pitches move differently away from the high altitudes causing an adjustment period outside the environment. This needs to be factored in but here's Arenado's statistics from this sample:
Arenado Road Splits 2017-through-2019: 235 games, 1,020 plate appearances, 120 runs, 53 home runs, 150 RBI, six stolen bases; .270/.342/.477, 9.7 BB%, 16.6 K%
It's not a precipitous drop in power, only 10 fewer home runs in the same amount of games in each split but the effects can be seen in counting statistics like runs and RBI. Do not ignore Arenado's six stolen bases away from elevation. With so many fantasy owners focused on what his batting average aftershock affects his value, a boost in steals could offset this slightly.
As for his fly ball and line drive data, here's his spray chart once again courtesy of Statcast:
Away from Coors, Arenado hit with less production for power to right field, focusing on pulling the ball for home runs. While one hopes this does not happen in St. Louis, put it in the memory bank. For a clearer picture, here's his according heatmap on the road in the same period of time:
Thankfully, this displays Arenado hitting to the opposite field without the resulting power results. He's a talented enough hitter to overcome this and may insulate his power in this manner. But, these backdrops used his new ballpark in St. Louis. Only time will tell.
Putting this all together for Arenado…
"Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.”
Referencing how one analyst handles valuing hitters moving away from Coors via the two parts away plus one part home method, here's how things shake out for Arenado using the results cited above:
Arenado Two parts Road, One part Coors: 155 games, 94 runs, 37 home runs, 112 RBI, 3 stolen bases; .294/.363/.536, 9.4 BB%, 16.2 K%
Recalling St. Louis resides in the bottom third of ballpark effects, perhaps at the bottom due to how well Oracle Park in San Francisco played last season, taking this hypothesis and then applying one more road sample to the equation may come closer to the goal of predicting Arenado's move to the Cardinals:
Arenado Three parts Road, One part Coors: 155 games, 90 runs, 37 home runs, 109 RBI, 3 stolen bases; .288/.357/.521, 9.4 BB%, 16.3 K%
It's amazing to see Arenado's home run total remain the same. Last, but not least, how the lineup may affect his counting statistics. Does he hit third? Fourth? These also enter the conversation on his overall numbers as much as ballpark effects. A conservative player may dial back Arenado's numbers to the .275-to-.280 range with 33 home runs.
Filter out all the noise and pay the due diligence of figuring out how to target Arenado or fade him once his draft capital readjusts from this move. No one can control the variance of his future but it's reassuring to see Arenado's original THE BAT X projection aligned with his three parts road and one part Coors formula from above:
Arenado 2021 THE BAT X projection: 154 games, 93 runs, 36 home runs, 109 RBI, 2 stolen bases; .286/.351/.529, 9.1 BB%, 13.4 K%
Again, this projection set and others may reassess Arenado leaving Coors but be comfortable with some uncertainty, it may create a unique buying opportunity for a talented player like Arenado.
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THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty