- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is surely one of the preeminent power hitters in the game, having mashed 56 home runs in his first two big league seasons in fewer than 1,000 plate appearances. Stanton's power should occur regardless of ballpark and pitcher, and while ongoing knee soreness has surely hampered him so far in 2012, he is on pace for 31 home runs. Perhaps we expected more, but as anyone that owns Albert Pujols will tell you, don't complain about "only" 31 home runs.
The thing is, Stanton's home ballpark -- the shiny, new and full of bells and whistles Marlins Park -- hasn't been the easiest place to launch monster fly balls for home runs. It's still early May and way too small a sample size, but while run scoring hasn't seemed to be a major problem there, hitting home runs has: According to MLB Park Factors only four ballparks, each notable for its long-ball challenges (Citi Field, Petco Park, Safeco Field and AT&T Park), have posed more of a challenge to hit home runs.
That doesn't bode so well for Stanton, who has hit one home run at home this season in 11 games (and five on the road), a ninth-inning, center field bomb in a 8-1 game off ordinary Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Mike Zagurski on April 29. Journeyman Zagurski doesn't pitch in high-leverage situations and isn't exactly Zack Greinke. Otherwise, Stanton has been flummoxed by Marlins Park, especially to left field, where the new park is more spacious than the old dump. Stanton generally pulls his home runs to left field, and now they're being caught. We should mention Stanton is hitting more ground balls than normal and hasn't been Matt Kemp on the road, either.
While I wouldn't jump off the Stanton bandwagon nor question his third-round status in ESPN average live drafts nor cancel potential Hall of Fame plans in 20 years, the fact is his home run prowess would be better served in perhaps 25 other home ballparks. I don't see the Marlins trading him, though. This is the hand he's been dealt, and rather than presume a 40-home run campaign is pending I'll be satisfied when he hits 32 home runs and knocks in 98, while hitting .250. It's not quite Jose Bautista circa 2011, but it could be far worse. Perhaps another name change is in order.
Here are other power hitters whose fantasy value has been affected by home ballpark, either one that has changed dimensions or the player has changed his, um, team dimension:
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Detroit Tigers: The big fella has launched five home runs so far, including a majestic blast at Safeco Field on Tuesday. I think we knew hitting in Detroit wouldn't be as comfortable for him as Milwaukee, where Fielder hit 24 of his 38 blasts last season. The truth is Fielder has three of his five home runs at home this season, but no other extra-base hits; he's slugging .418 at home, but .558 on the road. He won't be hitting 38 home runs if he continues to slug .418 -- Johnny Damon slugged .418 last season! Still, a 30-110 campaign will suffice.
• David Wright, 3B, New York Mets: He has two of the team's seven home runs at Citi Field, while opponents have hit 12 in the 16 games there. It's a bit early to track pace, but initially the fences moving in haven't seemed to have altered production much. Lucas Duda and a few opponents have hit home runs there that wouldn't have left the ballpark in 2011, though. Wright is hitting .376 overall, but .289 at home.
• Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres: Not that he would have been Joey Votto had he stayed in Cincinnati, but I've seen a few of Alonso's deep fly balls caught at Petco Park. In other places, they wouldn't have been. Alonso hasn't homered anywhere so far but does have nine doubles and a .809 OPS at home. His problems have been on the road (.593 OPS). I think there's a 15-homer guy lurking, perhaps even in 2012.
• Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies: An obvious offseason winner for leaving Target Field for Coors Field, Cuddyer is performing well at home, as expected. In road games, especially against right-handed pitching, he's not worth using in fantasy.
• Jesus Montero, C, Seattle Mariners: An obvious loser in terms of ballpark changes (but not for opportunity), Montero has hit half his four home runs at Safeco Field. He's also hitting 105 points worse there as opposed to the road (.212 versus .317). Frankly, his three walks in 117 plate appearances are a bigger concern than home ballpark.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Minnesota Twins: Few Twins are hitting well, especially at Target Field, but kudos to Willingham for hitting for four home runs and astronomical 1.565 OPS there. He's hitting 302 points lower on the road (.487 to .185). Yeah, makes little sense to me as well, but it won't continue.
• Ian Stewart, 3B, Chicago Cubs: You know, he didn't exactly rake at Coors Field. His career numbers there are ordinary (.243 AVG/.337 OBP/.430 SLG). He's actually slugged better in his career away from Coors! So far at Wrigley Field Stewart is hitting .194. He's hitting .195 on the road. Ignore him everywhere.
By the way, had I written this blog entry in March, I would have included Yoenis Cespedes, the slugging Oakland Athletics outfielder. The Cuban import probably could have signed with any of 20 teams, but he chose this franchise and its uninspiring yet spacious home digs of O.co Coliseum. Anyway, Cespedes is a bit like Stanton, sans the plate discipline and with the ability to play center field. He also has hit four of his five home runs at home. He has seven of his 10 extra-base hits there, and his OPS is more than double at home (1.085 versus .505). I do think Cespedes will be hampered by his home ballpark's dimensions in time, but it hasn't happened yet.