Who'll feel safe within Safeco Field's revised dimensions?
Right-handers will look forward to testing the park's first main facelift since its 1999 inception, chiefly in two areas. There'll be a significant reduction in the distance to the left-center-field power alley down to a manageable 378. Also, in the left-field corner, the 16-foot hand-operated scoreboard will change locations, and there'll be a universal eight-foot stature across the outfield.
ESPN.com's Stats and Information department notes the ridiculous stat that no right-handed hitter clubbed a single homer to tright field last year, so those bats will continue relying on pulling the rawhide.
Mike Morse will need to get more lift to the third-base side; his fly-ball split has been underwhelming, and he'll need serious fortune to sustain his power, which despite being natural has been inflated. Though he has some opposite-field tendencies, as well, Jesus Montero showed his bulk to left and center more often last year. Expect that to continue for the breakout candidate.
Lefty bats may need more inside-out connections to maximize the stadium's changes, because center field and RF's power alley each will be coming in only four feet. The stadium already had been more difficult on left-handed bats.
The switch-hitting Kendrys Morales has accounted for most of his power from the left box, which takes a bit of luster from his new situation. But he's posted fortunate HR/FB rates while calling an unfavorable environment home, so it may not detract much from his midrange price. Dual-boxer Justin Smoak also has a smidge more hope of reminding us he exists but carries the same environmental concerns Morales bears.
You should be more concerned with the continued effect on fringe homer hitters. Kyle Seager directed only one to the opposite field last year, but all five of the homers he hit at home last year were classified as "plenty" by his ESPN Home Run Tracker page, so maybe his natural liner style and growing ability will translate into more fence clearings. Bet on him continuing to rely on RBIs for value, though.
Dustin Ackley should improve, but only from a slight step forward in his MLB experience, not because of the minimal park changes for his handedness.
Though they're still decent dice rolls, fly-ball pitchers at Safeco don't provide as cozy an aura anymore. Maybe right-handers will have more luck there because lefty-loaded lineups will run into more atmospheric resistance.
Fortunately, in most cases, streaming Safeco slingers won't become necessary until we get a better sample of how the park plays. Of course, the Pacific Northwest dampness will continue rearing its ugly head.
How will Seattle dispense playing time at catcher ... and first base ... and designated hitter ... and outfield?
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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