Called Up but Moving Down: Elevation and Minor League Ballparks
|March 26, 2012||Posted by ReubenFB under Geo-Analysis|
Baseball is an interesting sport to follow geographically, as every ballpark comes with its own unique environment characteristics. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the “Coors Field Effect,” where the thin air of the Rockies’ 5,200 foot-high home field makes the place a hitter’s paradise. A comprehensive study on this effect found that from 1995-1998 the average fly-ball in Coors went about 6% further than the average for all other National League stadiums, enough to perhaps inflate the career numbers of feared hitters like Todd Helton and Larry Walker.
While Coors Field may be the highest MLB park, it is not the highest professional baseball stadium in the United States. Since I couldn’t find the information anywhere else, I recorded the geolocation of all 143 A-AAA MLB-affiliated minor league stadiums, and approximated their elevation using the handy GPS Visualizer. With Coors Field for reference, here are the ten highest parks in the minor leagues:
As this chart shows, there are really only four “high-altitude” minor league teams: the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies affiliated), the Salt Lake City Bees (Angels), the Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers), and the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks). All four are AAA with plenty of top-prospects, so which young players have benefited the most from their own version of the “Coors Field Effect?”
- Charlie Blackmon: In 2011, Blackmon slugged .572 for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox with 10 HRs in 58 games. After dropping 1,342 feet to play at Coors Field, the 25-year old slugged only .296 with 1 HR in 27 games. Fangraphs still has him as the Rockies 12th-best prospect.
- Jeremy Moore: Before undergoing recent hip surgery, the 24-year old Moore was among the Angels top prospects. He was a power-focused hitter for the Salt Lake City Bees in 2011, posting just a .331 OBP in 113 games but slugging .545 with 15 HRs. He was only called up to the Angels for 8 games – a 6,359 foot drop in elevation – where he went 1 for 8.
- Trayvon Robinson: Robinson – the Dodger’s #4 prospect in 2011 – was a surprising chip in the trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox in 2011. The 24-year old slugged .563 with 26 HRs in 100 games for the Albuquerque Isotopes before traveling 5,121 feet downhill to the Mariners. In 44 games he slugged .336 with only 2 HRs.
- Tim Federowicz: The #22 prospect for the Red Sox was acquired by the Dodgers in the Bedard trade and the 24-year old went off for the Isotopes, slugging .627 with 6 HRs in 25 games. He earned a late-season call-up to the Dodgers – a 4,864 foot elevation drop – but went just 2 for 16.
- Colin Cowgill: In 98 games for the Reno Aces, the 25-year old slugged .554 with 13 HRs. Called down 3,413 feet to the Diamondbacks he slugged only .304 with 1 HR in 36 games.
The Angels win the award for highest farm system, as their four affiliated teams are on average 2,141 feet above sea level. The Orioles have the lowest, with an average of only 143 feet for five teams. For a complete list of minor league teams by elevation click here.