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Has LoanDepot Park officially become a hitter's venue?
It wasn't too long ago that the Miami Marlins were considered a soft landing in fantasy baseball. They were a streamer's heaven, a team that any well-adjusted starting pitcher could have a smooth outing against. Their home stadium was the place offense went to die, a smothering pit of lazy fly balls, anticlimactic grounders and disappointment.
So what the hell is going on in 2022?
The Marlins are currently middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories so far this season (15th in runs, 13th in HRs, 14th in AVG, 15th in SLG), but that's a drastic change when you compare those numbers to their 2021 counterparts (Miami finished 29th in runs, 28th in HRs, 28th in AVG and 29th in SLG).
Not impressive enough of a change for you? I get it; we're only in June.
But also, we're already in June. And speaking of which, let's just take a look at Marlins' games since the start of the month. Twelve Marlins games have gone over the total so far, many of which have been played at their home venue, LoanDepot Park.
Now, if you know anything about Park Factors — the inimitable Dalton Del Don writes a column every season about how updated Park Factors should affect fantasy drafting — then you know it usually takes about three years of data for real, offense-changing effects to be put to light after stadium changes.
Well, it's been nearly three years since Marlins brass decided to move the center field and right field fences in more in an effort to boost home runs.
I think it's working.
So far, LoanDepot Park unofficially ranks 10th in Park Factor runs and 14th in Park Factor home runs — a far cry from its abysmal numbers of the past. Last night alone, in a 9-8 victory over the Rockies at home, Marlins hitters collected 13 hits — before a long road trip, they collected 10 hits at home against the Nationals, scoring 9 and 7 runs, respectively.
Things are changing in Miami.
So, what does this mean?
Well, for one thing, it means Sandy Alcantara deserves more flowers than he's gotten, as he's been able to compile a 7-2 record with a minuscule 1.72 ERA. It's highly unlikely he finishes with an ERA anywhere close to that, especially with the hot weather incoming. It could be nigh impossible to pry Alcantara from another manager in a trade, but he's at least worth checking in on, using the specter of regression to your advantage.
But let's move to something a bit more actionable. The only Marlins hitter rostered in the majority of leagues is the electrifying Jazz Chisholm Jr. After him, only two more Marlins — Jon Berti and Jorge Soler — are rostered in over 50 percent of leagues. All three of these hitters should be on your fantasy trade radar if you need homers (Chisholm and Soler both have xSLG well beyond their current marks) and steals/runs (Berti seemingly has never met a base he didn't want to steal and he's been parked at the top of the Marlins lineup, too).
Beyond them, we can find some value on the waiver wire, depending on your league size and needs.
Jesus Sanchez (21 percent rostered) was activated from the COVID IL yesterday and proceeded to go 2-for-4 with a two-run shot against Colorado. Playing time has been an issue with him, but perhaps the Marlins will give him more opportunities now that he's healthy. He's someone to watch if you're in need of power.
The real get here might be Garrett Cooper, who is somehow rostered in just 33 percent of leagues despite being on a six-game hitting streak and, usually, slotting in the top three or four spots in the lineup.
Cooper is hitting a sublime .310/.378/.452 in 210 at-bats, but it's his expected numbers that should have fantasy managers running to the waiver wire (just take a look at his Statcast page). He also qualifies at first base and the outfield; always a plus.
We don't know if the Marlins will continue to rise up the offensive ranks, be it thanks to their park, their improved lineup, or a combination of both. We have data now, but it's not concrete yet. For many of us, however, we gotta take what we're seeing as fact right now — and right now, the Marlins are mashing.
It pays to have a Fish or two in your fantasy lineups.