The full season leagues will start play in the 2016 season this week, and with that in mind, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking a look at some of the relevant information with each league. While we always hope that you'll come to us when you're looking for fantasy writing and analysis to help you in your leagues, we also want to help you get a better understanding of what we're looking at so that you can do some of this analysis should you need it quickly. First up in our preview series is the Pacific Coast League.
The Pacific Coast League is a 16-team minor league at the AAA level, with teams across the west and midwestern regions of the U.S. Directly below the major leagues, it will tend to see a lot of movement between its' teams and the major leagues as the big clubs need injury replacements and other changes. The players at this level tend to have a wide age range, as veteran depth options tend to be kept there. It has been operating at one level or another since 1903, but has been a AAA level league since 1946.
Last Year's Champions: Fresno Grizzlies (Houston Astros affiliate)
Adjusting for Location
If you're looking at statistics or reports on minor leaguers throughout the season, it's important to note that there are significant differences in how some of the parks play in terms of offense and pitching. The statistics will not tell you the whole story in the first place, but understanding some of these differences can help give you an idea of whether the stats are misleading from the start. The affiliates in this league are grouped below by their general offensive environment, which you can read more about from this MILB.com explainer from last season.
These parks tend to favor hitting by a fairly substantial margin, and so when looking at the performance of prospects in these stadiums, you want to make sure you try to review reports that help to explain whether the performance may or may not be park induced. Likewise, with pitchers, you're more interested in the "how" rather than the "what", because many of these environs are at a high enough altitude to affect how well breaking pitches can work.
Notable Prospects Expected to Start in High-Offense Environments
Albuquerque (COL) - Jeff Hoffman (#62), Tom Murphy
Colorado Springs (MIL) - Orlando Arcia (#17), Jorge Lopez (#96)
El Paso (SDP) - Hunter Renfroe (#71), Javier Guerra (#83)
Las Vegas (NYM) - Gavin Cecchini (#100)
Omaha (KCR) - Kyle Zimmer (#59)
Reno (ARI) - Archie Bradley (#66), Braden Shipley, Peter O'Brien
Salt Lake City (LAA) - None
Albuquerque should be an interesting test for Hoffman, and can potentially give a better indication of how he'll be able to handle pitching in Colorado half the time.
Generally Neutral Environments
These parks tend to not favor either hitting or pitching particularly strongly from year to year. Top prospects' performance at these parks generally can give a decent idea of potential performance, and don't necessarily immediately induce skepticism like the first group.
Notable Prospects Expected to Start in Neutral Environments
Fresno (HOU) - A.J. Reed (#19), Tony Kemp, Colin Moran
Iowa (CHC) - Willson Contreras (#93), Dan Vogelbach, Arismendy Alcantara
Oklahoma City (LAD) - Julio Urias (#5)
Round Rock (TEX) - Joey Gallo (#7), Nomar Mazara (#8)
With Tyler White making the Opening Day roster, Fresno 1B A.J. Reed could spend a substantial amount of time at AAA this year. He should still be up at some point, but that time table is pushed back a bit.
These parks tend to favor pitchers, suppressing offense in general for some and home runs specifically for others. As a result, looking at peripheral statistics like strikeout rate, walk rate, and ground ball rate can help tell whether pitchers are being helped by their home park inordinately, and how much it may be masking other potential issues. On the other end, performances at the plate that stand out (such as the strong power production by Adam Duvall mentioned in the above MILB.com article).
Notable Prospects Expected to Start in Pitcher-Friendly Environments
Memphis (STL) - Marco Gonzales
Nashville (OAK) - Rangel Ravelo
New Orleans (MIA), Sacramento (SFG), Tacoma (SEA) - None