Thursday, December 20, 2012


"UPTON!"  Eliciting that simple two syllable last name no doubt generates more than a few aggravated shakes of the end when it comes to the fantasy baseball community.  Whereas Atlanta's Upton version, B.J,, has been a disappointment for years since he first came up as a 20-year-old in the Tampa Bay organization, brother Justin seems to be following the same script through his early years with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The former number 1 pick overall in the 2005 draft, expectations were through the roof for Justin Upton, especially after his 2009 breakout season when he hit 26 home runs, stole 20 bases, and batted an even .300.  Speaking to how powerful Upton was, the average distance his home runs traveled that season were the highest in baseball.  At only the age of 22.  Clearly the sky was the limit for Upton and future visions of a 40/25 blockbuster campaign were dancing in prospective owners' heads.  He was a can't miss and he would turn out to be the Upton star that B.J. was supposed to be.

The battle for Upton's services were as fierce as any player in 2010 drafts and he would be picked as high as the second round which spoke to how the consensus was stardom and nothing less for the kid.  Well taking a page out of his brother's handbook, Justin proceeded to hit the ground with a thud in 2010, hitting only 17 home runs while stealing 18 bases and batting only .273.  It was a gigantic step back for Upton who went down as one of the bigger busts that season due to where he was picked in drafts that spring.  The biggest problem was Upton's horrendous striking rate, as he whiffed an inexcusable 152 times in only 495 at-bats.  Opposing pitchers refused to throw Upton any fastballs and so the home runs vanished.  Be that as it may, Upton was still a baby in baseball terms at 23 and he would surely be given another chance in 2011 due to his youth.

Those owners who took advantage of the 2011 version of Justin Upton no doubt made out big time as he seemed to figure out overnight how to curb the strikeouts.  Whiffing only 126 times in 592 at-bats, Upton was like a completely different player in 2011 and the results were mammoth.  He would hit 31 home runs, steal 21 bases, and hit a very solid .289.  Surely Upton had finally broken through on all of his potential and once again visions of a blockbuster season began to make the rounds again.  Even if he didn't take that step, a 30/20 campaign was second round material and would do just fine on any fantasy baseball team.

Since nothing ever goes according to plan when it comes to the Upton's, 2012 brought yet more disappointment as Justin hit only 17 home runs, stole 18 bases, and batted only .273.  The power seemed to vanish overnight and the crazy part was that Upton held onto the gains he made in the strikeout department in 2011, whiffing only 121 times in 554 at-bats.  Despite being solid there once again by his standards, Upton was not hitting home runs.  He once again was a fantasy baseball pariah and his own team began to solicit offers for him which seemed crazy on the basis of Upton being only 25 and signed to a decent contract.  Yet the Diamondbacks didn't stop once the season ended in trying to deal Upton as they listened to offers all the way through the Winter Meetings.  While no match was found as of this writing, many feel it is only a matter of time before Upton got traded finally.  Where he ends up could go a long way in setting up his fantasy baseball value going forward but for now we have to grade him on being in Arizona. 

Taking a look at his prospects for 2013, Upton is about as tough to grade out as anyone due to his wild swings in production.  While he could easily duplicate his 31 homer 2011 campaign, he could also continue to post ugly 2012 numbers, especially with trade rumors swirling around.  What we can bank on is Upton hitting around 20 home runs and stealing between 15-20 bases which is where he generally has finished in his career each season.  However getting to the 30 home mark is certainly in the realm of possibility as well since Upton held onto the strikeouts gains he made in 2011 which will continue to give him good pitchers to hit.  Also he is getting close to his power prime which means a burst in home runs could happen at any moment due to that physical improvement.  Still Upton is a risk due to not knowing where he could be traded and for the unpredictability in his stats.  We like him as a fifth round pick or later but anything before that is too risky in our book.  You as a potential owner need to come up with a spot in the draft where he would be comfortable picking him and stick to it.  If he goes before that spot, than quickly forget it and move on.  If he lands in your lap when you wanted him to, than go right ahead and make the selection.  Your call on this.

2013 PROJECTION:  .280 25 HR 88 RBI 92 R 17 SB

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