Palm Beach, Jupiter share pitching haven at Roger Dean Stadium
November 29, 2016
In addition to our weekly Toolshed column, every Tuesday during the first half of the offseason our Toolshed Stats series will use advanced statistics such as ISO, FIP, Spd and park factors to better understand prospect performance during the 2016 Minor League season.
If you're looking for low numbers at a full-season Minor League level, head to the Florida State League. The Class A Advanced circuit ranked 10th or lower among the 14 non-complex domestic leagues in runs, homers and hits per nine innings during the 2016 season.
And if you're looking for low numbers within the Florida State League, head to Roger Dean Stadium.
For starters, Roger Dean is unique for being the only Minor League stadium that plays host to two separate teams -- the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads. For hitters on both squads, however, Roger Dean can be anything but home sweet home.
Using the same formula from previous editions of this column -- a park factor of 1.000 in a category is considered neutral with anything above leaning toward hitters and anything below leaning toward pitchers -- Roger Dean is at or near the bottom in hits, homers and runs. From 2014 through 2016, only Brevard County's Space Coast Stadium ranked lower across the board, and that park just completed its final season with the newly named Florida Fire Frogs headed to Kissimmee in 2017.
No slugger hit more than six homers with Palm Beach this season, and the Cardinals' Class A Advanced affiliate finished last on the circuit with 33 total homers, 15 fewer than Brevard County and 90 fewer than league-leading Lakeland.
Jupiter, a Marlins farm club, didn't fare as poorly with the long ball, ranking eighth of 12 with 57 collective long balls, but the effects of their home park were still felt by the Hammerheads. Dexter Kjerstad led the team with 15 homers, but 10 of those came on the road, despite the fact that he played two more games at Roger Dean than anywhere else. John Norwood led the club with a .744 OPS but saw big improvements in his road splits (.285/.372/.446, seven homers in 64 games) over those at home (.256/.320/.344, two homers in 63 games).
Of course, as hitters were struggling at Roger Dean, pitchers were reaping the benefits. Cardinals' No. 4 prospect Jack Flaherty may not have had the most memorable numbers by FSL standards with a 3.56 ERA that ranked 10th of 24 qualifiers, but his home numbers (3.13 ERA, one homer in 72 innings) trounced those on the road (4.06 ERA, seven homers in 62 innings).
These are all cherry-picked prospects you might recognize, but the bigger picture supports these examples and is laid out in the tables below. And it's not just in the Minors either. Roger Dean, like other FSL stadiums, hosts Major League Spring Training and provides the Grapefruit League homes to the Cardinals and Marlins during February and March. One can imagine which two teams finished at the bottom of the Spring Training leader board in runs, homers and hits at home during 2016. In the most extreme case, Marlins batters hit only two long balls at Roger Dean all spring in 449 total at-bats. (One was a massive blast by Giancarlo Stanton.) Cardinals batters didn't fare much better with five homers in 427 at-bats. Orioles batters led the spring with 29 round trippers in 557 at-bats at home.
The effects of Roger Dean caught Major League eyes earlier this year, including those of the most prolific slugger to play the game.
"It's not the ballpark," then-Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds told the St. Louis Post-Dispatchin late March. "It's the wind. You try hitting the ball out of Wrigley Field with the wind blowing in. Can't do it. They can't do it. Can't do it here either. It's ridiculous."
With Roger Dean going 330 feet down the line to left field, 325 to right, 355 and 350 to the alleys and 400 to center, it's not exactly massive. Rather it's the wind coming off the Atlantic as home plate faces northeast toward the ocean six miles away.
The FSL landscape seems to be ever-changing with the Fire Frogs hopping in and a Spring Training facility shared by the Astros and Nationals in West Palm Beach set to open next year as well. But Roger Dean, going into its 20th year of operation, looks like it'll be around awhile. So when pitching prospects such as Braxton Garrett, Tyler Kolek or Junior Fernandez post low numbers while offensive youngsters like Delvin Perez, Magneuris Sierra or Thomas Jones do the same at the plate, know that one of those groups has a major advantage.
Here are a few more notes on Class A Advanced park factors, followed by one- and three-year tables in the Carolina, California and Florida State Leagues:
The California League has always been one of the most hitter-friendly circuits in the Minors as the numbers below bear out. But as was detailed in a previous Toolshed, the exits of High Desert and Bakersfield -- two of the league's best parks for hitters -- should bring that a little closer to Earth in 2017.
If the home run factor at Frederick for the 2016 season jumps out, it should, but here's some hard data. There were 150 homers hit in games involving the Keys over 70 games at home this season, compared to 74 on the road in 70 contests. That's how you end up with a factor above 2.000. The numbers normalized a bit over the three-year model, but at 1.738, it's clear Frederick is the homer haven of a league not typically known for the long ball.
Bakersfield, High Desert and Brevard County data were all included in the tables below, even though none of those clubs will exist in 2017. Kinston was not, considering Minor League Baseball hasn't been played there since 2011.
California League 2016
Carolina League 2016
Florida State League 2016
California League 2014-16
Carolina League 2014-16
Florida State League 2014-16
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.