When the New York Yankees signed Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, three of the most accomplished offensive players in baseball arrived to rescue a meek offensive attack. If all goes to plan, the respective talents of each new Yankee will be enhanced by a ballpark uniquely suited to their skill sets.
Since the first days of Yankee Stadium, the park has been built for left-handed hitters to thrive. While the bricks and mortar of the building that housed Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are long gone, the new version of the park sports the same friendly dimensions in right field: 314 feet down the line and 385 feet into the right-center field alley.
On their own, McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran are excellent offensive players. Yankee Stadium won't change that, but rather add to their respective production in 2014 and beyond.
Over the last five years—since the opening of new Yankee Stadium in 2009—the park has been a home run haven for hitters. According to ESPN, the park has been a top-10 homer park in every single season.
|Yankee Stadium: Home Run Haven|
|Year||HR per Game||MLB Rank|
With Opening Day on the horizon, let's take a look at how the talents of New York's newest stars can be enhanced by the short porch in right field.
McCann certainly doesn't need help hitting home runs. In fact, McCann's 176 career homers through his age-29 season is the eighth most in the history of catchers, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). The path to a 300-plus home run career has been laid out by the former Braves star.
Yet, Atlanta's Turner Field didn't do the long-time Braves leader any favors.
Last year, Turner Field ranked 18th in home run rate, per ESPN. With a 390-foot distance to right-center field and 330 feet separating home plate from the right-field pole, pulling a home run wasn't easy for a left-handed swinger in Atlanta.
In 2014 and beyond, expect McCann's bat to thrive with a short porch. During his nine-year career, the power-hitting catcher owns a 42.5 percent fly-ball rate and 12.7 percent HR/FB ratio, per FanGraphs.
If McCann can simply hit the same amount of fly balls, more will leave the yard in the Bronx.
FanGraphs' Oliver Projections has McCann slated for a big year in 2014 and many more to come. If these numbers are proven to be prescient, the Yankees will see a major return on the $85 million investment made in McCann.
|Brian McCann's Year-by-Year Oliver Projections|
In center field, Ellsbury's offensive skill set is well understood: speed, speed and more speed.
The 30-year-old is set to become a top-of-the-order force for manager Joe Girardi's lineup due to stolen-base ability. Last year, Ellsbury was successful in 52 of 56 stolen base attempts. That marked the third 50-plus steal season of his career.
Yet, there's one aspect of Ellsbury's game that remains an open-ended question: Can he hit for power?
Outside of 2011, the answer has been clear. In six of seven big league seasons, the left-handed hitter hasn't reached double-digit homers. Yet, on the path to a second-place finish in the 2011 AL MVP vote, Ellsbury crushed 32 home runs.
In New York, don't expect Ellsbury to reach those heights. But that doesn't mean an uptick in power won't arrive during 81 home games in the Bronx.
When deciphering the player and hitter Ellsbury could become for the Yankees, look to another center fielder than departed Boston for New York: Johnny Damon.
When Damon arrived to the Yankees in 2006, he owned exactly one season of 20-plus homers. During his four years in New York, the lefty slugged 77 long balls. It was routine to see Damon drop the barrel of his bat and shoot for fly balls toward the inviting wall in right.
For Ellsbury, a different approach may yield similar results.
When looking how Ellsbury reached 30-plus homer status in 2011, an uptick in fly balls doesn't stand out on his ledger, per FanGraphs. Instead, the MVP candidate posted the best line-dive rate—22.9 percent—of his career.
Due to the way lasers jump off Ellsbury's bat, 10 or more line drives per season could quickly clear the right field wall in New York. Instead of long singles or extra-base hits, those hits could become home runs.
With 358 career home runs, Beltran arrives in New York as the most accomplished offseason acquisition and on the fringe of Hall of Fame consideration.
Although it would be foolish to expect MVP-caliber production during Beltran's age-36 season, Yankee Stadium could help him become even more of a complete power hitter.
As a switch hitter, Beltran won't take all of his turns at-bat from the left-handed batters box. Over the course of his career, that's proved to be a good thing and match-up advantage for his respective teams.
Beltran's career .523 slugging percentage from the right side of the plate—higher than the lifetime marks of great hitters like Edgar Martinez, Eddie Matthews and Robinson Cano, per Baseball-Reference—makes him a nightmare for opposing managers to face in late-game situations.
As a left-handed hitter—where the majority of at-bats come for a switch-hitter—Beltran's career slugging percentage is .487. Due to the higher volume of at-bats and the fact that Beltran is a natural right-handed hitter, this discrepancy isn't surprising.
However, with Yankee Stadium's dimensions playing a role, Beltran could post a slugging percentage of .500 from both sides of the plate. If that type of production commences, the Yankees would have one of baseball's most dangerous veteran weapons at their disposal.
In St. Louis, Beltran dealt with a 335-foot span between home plate and the right field pole. In New York, he'll have to launch potential game-changing hits far less to clear the wall.
Will Yankee Stadium enhance New York's newest stars?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Roster projections courtesy of MLB Depth Charts. Field dimensions courtesy of ESPN.