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How much will Carlos Rodon’s fantasy value drop in the Bronx?

How much will Carlos Rodon’s fantasy value drop in the Bronx?
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Carlos Rodon’s decision to sign with the New York Yankees seems likely to stir some longstanding — and, in some cases, erroneous — perceptions that could make him either an outstanding fantasy baseball value or a pitcher you’ll totally avoid for 2023. He ‘ll very much be a « take a stand » kind of selection now.

Leaving San Francisco’s Oracle Park, one of the most pitching-friendly environments in all of baseball, for New York’s Yankee Stadium, one its most homer-friendly, is going to work to his detriment. Rodon’s 29.5% fly-ball rate last season, after all, was sixth-highest among the 45 ERA-qualified pitchers and, while he’s excellent at missing bats (his 15.5% swinging-strike rate was seventh-best among that same group), his new home is nowhere near as forgiving as his 2022 one was.

That said, Yankee Stadium isn’t the extreme hitters’ environment that it’s perceived to be. Yes, it has some of the most laughable dimensions and fence heights in right and right-center fields in the game, but the Statcast three-year park factors tell a slightly more calming tale, indicating that it was only 12th in terms of home run factor (105, meaning that it inflated home-run production by roughly 5% compared to the average park), and eighth in runs scored (104). It’s only by comparison to Oracle Park’s 76 home run and 90 runs scored factors, both second-lowest in baseball, that Yankee Stadium appears to be a dramatic swing in environments for the left-hander. That swing is dramatic, but it’s not like Rodon was just sentenced to six years at Coors Field.

In Rodon’s case, his xFIP serves a good barometer for what one might expect from him in New York. From 2021-22 — his two excellent, post-surgery campaigns — this number was 3.02, a little more than one-third of a run higher than his ERA in that time (2.67). As xFIP normalizes a pitcher’s home runs allowed, effectively assuming he worked in a neutral environment, it’s applicable (if not understating) to this impending change of home venue.

Another way to look at it is to consider Rodon’s new, similar power-pitcher rotation-mate Gerrit Cole. Cole’s ERA in his two seasons for the Houston Astros, who called a more pitching-oriented environment then (though hardly to the level that Oracle Park is) his home, was 2.68, but in his three for the Yankees it has been 3.28. Cole’s HR/9 ratio also swelled from 1.05 with the Astros to 1.40 with the Yankees, another indication that Rodon’s ERA is sure to rise as a direct result of his team change, probably to above 3.00.

Beyond that, Rodon’s skill set doesn’t seem likely to change as a result of the move. A driving force behind his breakthrough over the past two seasons has been a spike in fastball velocity, as his averaged better than 95 mph in each year, with those representing the two highest single-season numbers of his big-league career. Additionally, Rodon had greater extension on all of his pitches following his return, the combination of those factors giving his slider added life and making it a bona fide put-away pitch responsible for 184 of his 422 strikeouts — despite him throwing it roughly 30 % of the time.

In New York, Rodon should benefit from working with one of the better, analytically driven pitching coaches in Matt Blake, so it seems likely that Rodon will maintain his gains. Pitching in a deeper rotation — after Cole and Rodon, the Yankees also have Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, Frankie Montas and Domingo German as clear starting options — should also alleviate some of the injury risk surrounding Rodon, who had never exceeded 28 starts or 165 innings until last season (31 and 178). Yes, the Yankees’ bullpen woes over the second half of last year present some team support risks, which could adversely affect the lefty’s total win, but it’s also still an early stage of the offseason in which the team could add some more bullpen arms. Wait and see there.

Speaking of team support, one of the other age-old assumptions about pitchers joining the Yankees is that the « Bronx Bombers » grant a huge boost in run support, meaning many more wins for fantasy. While it’s true that the team finished second in runs scored last season, remember that the team was largely inconsistent month over month, and it still could roll out three below-average lineup positions (catcher, shortstop and left field) with two of its big boppers having an injury history (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton). Yes, the Yankees represent a boost in run support compared to what Rodon enjoyed in the past, which will help this pitcher who typically doesn’t linger deep into his starts, but it’s not something around which to make rash fantasy decisions because of the volatility the team has shown on offense in recent years.

Rodon’s arrival in New York might ultimately place him exactly where he was last season — a borderline top-10 fantasy starting pitcher, regardless of format. He was my No. 13 starter before the decision, and he’ll slide back only two spots to No. 15 (behind Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah) after the deal, simply because of the ERA bump.

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