Petco Park Claims Another Victim?

Unless your name is Adrian Gonzalez, if you are a hitter, the last place you want to set foot in is San Diego's Petco Park, the vast hitting wasteland that the Padres call home. It's an amazing, beautiful stadium in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp district, but it's a complete nightmare for major league batters, with huge dimensions and no carry whatsoever. Since the park opened its doors in 2004, it's been killing position player fantasy value and angering many a fantasy manager. The last three seasons Petco's park factor has ranged from 90 to 93, meaning its around seven to ten percent tougher on hitters than a completely neutral park. Yeesh.

Into this offensive black hole steps slugger and two-time All-Star Carlos Quentin, who was just acquired by the Padres from the Chicago White Sox for a couple of unexciting prospects. Quentin's main appeal to fantasy owners is his power, which now stands to be threatened in his move from US Cellular Field, one of the more homer-friendly parks in the American League, to Petco. This stinks on many levels for Quentin's owners, but is his value completely gone? Can he be a Gonzalez-like outlier and continue to mash despite his new ballpark's huge dimensions?

Quentin was always a favorite of mine ever since his days as a "Baby Back" prospect with Arizona in the mid-aughts. His combination power/OBP potential, and the fact that he was going to be playing in the Chase Field bandbox, had him on a lot of prospect watch lists. However, a miserable 2007 season wiped off some of the shine and Quentin was subsequently traded to the White Sox for Chris Carter, who is now busy not being given a chance with Oakland. Quentin, of course, busted out in his first year with the Sox, launching 36 home runs and OPSing .965. He has hit 21 or more home runs every season since, and that power is what makes him consistently interesting to fantasy players.

He likely would have led the league in home runs and been a serious MVP candidate in 2008 had he not missed the last month of the season due to injury. Therein lies the problem, however. Quentin has never played more than 131 games in a year, as injury issues have caused him to miss significant time in literally every season he's played in the major leagues.

One of the skills that makes Quentin an asset is his penchant for being hit by pitches (he led the league last year with 23). This leads to a decent OBP, which makes up a bit for his lack of walks. Unfortunately, getting hit by 90+ mph fastballs repeatedly doesn't do wonders for one's durability, and the constant stream of bruises have made it hard for fantasy players who have owned Quentin. Players who can be relied on to miss at least 30 games a season are, um...generally unreliable.

The injury problems bug me more than the switch to Petco. Quentin has 30-homer pop and, given a full, healthy season, I don't think even Petco Park could erase that. The ballpark seems more hostile to left-handed power, in general. Going back, players like Phil Nevin and Khalil Greene were still able to have solid power years despite playing half their games there. Even Scott Hairston did some of his best hitting while playing in Petco, smashing 17 homers in half a season's worth of at-bats in 2008. Quentin has generally been a good hitter away from Chicago too, so he's not just a creation of US Cellular's friendly dimensions.

Quentin hits 30 this season and his age, plus playing a full season in the outfield with no DH to hide behind, only increase the chances of his getting hurt. The power is tantalizing because, as we saw in 2008, if he's totally healthy he can be a fantasy stud. Unfortunately, there's just no evidence to suggest that he can stay off the disabled list for a full season. His injury history is a bigger bugaboo than Petco. He'll produce if he stays in one piece, but why should we believe that he will?

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