It’s about time Carlos Beltran became a Yankee. For nearly a decade, Beltran sought pinstripes through free agency, and offered the Yankees discounts in 2005, 2012, and now in 2014. He grew up as a Bernie Williams fan, and though we saw the outfielder play for 6 and a half years in Queens, it’s nice to see him finally make his way to the Bronx. There’s no doubt that the switch-hitter’s swings were made for Yankee Stadium, but with him entering his age 37 season and with a 3 year contract under his belt, is this move too late?
Beltran no longer offers the premium speed or defense that we saw earlier in his career, but he’s still a guy that can hit for average, on base percentage, and power. Despite his age, most of his numbers are stable through his last few seasons. In 2013, we did see an intriguing dip in his BB%, and perhaps a slight decrease in power. In his time with the Cardinals, his swing rate has increased from the low 40’s to high 40’s, and it’s most evident in his swings outside of the strike zone. In his Royal career and early Met days, Beltran only swung at about 16% to 17% of pitches outside of the strike zone, but it’s slowly increased since. In 2012 and 2013, Beltran swung at 31% to 32% of these pitches out of the strike zone. Fortunately, he’s making more contact with these pitches, which has prevented his strikeout rates from increasing, but it also explains why his BB% was cut in half in 2013.
Even with what seems like some regression, Beltran was actually a little unlucky with his batted balls in 2013 and 2012. His line drives carried just a .679 batting average last season and a .678 in 2012, which we can expect to jump about .030 to .040 points if he’s still making the hard contact we saw last season. His ground ball rates became hits at a .255 rate in 2013, which is on par with the rest of his career, but should fall with his decline in speed. His fly ball rates were right on line with what we’ve seen over his career, but could increase inside Yankee Stadium.
Most fans expect Beltran to perform better in Yankee Stadium, but how much can we expect? The Cardinals’ Busch Stadium was a slightly below average hitter park in 2013, carrying a home run rate of 93 for left-handed hitters and 86 for right-handed hitters (100 being average). Yankee Stadium is much more friendly to batters, left-handers especially. From the batted ball chart above, you can see where Beltran’s hits at home would have landed in Yankee Stadium. Though he hit 12 home runs in Busch Stadium in 2013, 21 of these would have gone out in the Bronx, with possibly 3 others that are right on top of the wall.
The AL East has even more hitter-friendly ballparks in Camden Yards, Fenway Park, and the Rogers Center, though the NL Central also has Great American Ballpark and Miller Park. With Beltran moving to such a hitter-friendly environment, all regression should be neutralized, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit 30 home runs again. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what will happen with his walk rates, as the recent trend to swing outside of zone shows no stopping. His batting average shouldn’t take much of a dip either, as his hits on line drives and fly balls should theoretically increase more than his ground ball hits decline. The outfielder was made for Yankee Stadium, and even with his age in mind, I expect Beltran to have at least one more monster season left in him, and I predict a .290/.340/.520 slash.