As it Boston Red Sox will trade Mookie Betts to either the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers, the top of Fantasy baseball drafts could be shaken up right as draft prep season is beginning to heat up.the
As things stand, there is a clear cut top-five at the top of drafts: Mike Trout and Ronald Acuña are one and two in some order; Betts, Cody Bellinger, and Christian Yelich are the next three, in some order. Occasionally, you'll see someone sneak Gerrit Cole into their top five, but for the most part, those five outfielders are going at the top of most drafts. But a Betts trade could certainly shake that up. Here's what the impact of a trade to either the Dodgers or Padres would mean for his value — and it's not necessarily the same outcome for both scenarios.
First, we should note that while moving to a new team certainly matters, it's easy to overstate the impact. For CBS Fantasy last spring, Alex Chamberlain found that a player's production plus his spot in the order explains between 84 and 98% of his run and RBI production — quality of lineup matters, but that's mostly at the margins.
However, there are three factors that certainly do matter potentially quite a bit more when looking at a player changing teams: Park factors, lineup volume and switching from one league to the other.
On the latter point, hitters tend to do better the more they see a pitcher, and moving to a league means you're going to be facing more pitchers they often haven't faced. The difference isn't necessarily huge — and hitters moving from the AL to the NL tend to perform better than vice versa — but it could be something to consider for Betts if he does get traded. However, that impact would be the same for Betts no matter whether he goes to the Dodgers or Padres, so it doesn't matter much. You could ding Betts' baseline expectations a bit, but he should still largely be the same guy.
However, park factors would be a significant thing to look at for Betts. Not only is Fenway Park a great place to hit, but the AL East also has Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, and Rogers Centre, three great hitters' parks. The NL West, on the other hand, really only has one great hitters park now that the humidor has worked its magic in Chase Field, and both Dodger Stadium and Petco Park tend to suppress runs more than the league average park.
This is one place Betts would surely figure to lose in the event of a trade. His career home/road splits aren't as severe as someone like Manny Machado, but they are there: He has hit .319/.387/.542 in his career at Fenway, compared to .285/.361/.497 on the road. That all makes sense — hitters tend to hit better at home than on the road, and while Fenway suppresses power a bit, it more than makes up for it by inflating BABIP and batting average as a result. Betts has hit more homers on the road, and if he moved to Dodger Stadium, a career-high in homers wouldn't be an unrealistic expectation, even if the overall environment might not be quite as favorable.
On the other hand, a move to Petco could be the worst of both worlds. It suppresses power like Fenway, but also doesn't show the same inflationary effects on other production, creating one of the toughest hitting environments in baseball. I wouldn't expect Betts to struggle quite as much as Manny Machado did in his first season in Petco if he ends up there — Betts has always been a better hitter on the road than Machado was — but you would probably have to downgrade him a bit for the move.
The other place you would probably have to downgrade Betts would be in lineup volume. Betts has spent most of his career batting leadoff for the Red Sox, a lineup that creates tons of opportunities. In 2019, the leadoff spot for the Red Sox saw 786 plate appearances, while the No. 2 spot saw 772. The Dodgers, who ranked fifth in the majors in runs, just behind the Red Sox, had 768 plate appearances for their leadoff spot and 747 from the No. 2 spot. That's a reduction of between 2-5%, depending on the spot — not significant enough to really impact his value.
However, the Padres ranked just 27th in the majors in runs, and saw just 734 plate appearances from the leadoff spot and 723 from the No. 2 spot. While you would expect the lineup to turn over a few more times with Betts around, the difference in 2019 was about 6% from both spots. Add in the park effects, and it's clear you would have to downgrade Betts' production quite a bit in the event of a trade to the Padres — possibly by as much as 10% overall.
Obviously, Betts would still be a great player. If traded to the Dodgers, I think I would still be fine using a top-five pick on him, though he might be more of a firm No. 5 behind the other members of that group. If Betts were traded to the Padres, however, I think you probably move him behind those other four, plus Trevor Story and Francisco Lindor, at least; several pitchers would likely move ahead of Betts as well.
Betts would still be an elite Fantasy option no matter where he plays, but a trade to San Diego would probably move him to the end of the first round on Draft Day.