Tuesday, January 21, 2014


                                                                Justin Upton

It seemed like all the waiting had finally paid off.  After his thumb healed and after getting traded to a new organization that also employed his older brother, things were certainly looking up for outfielder Justin Upton early in the 2013 season.  No one was better during the month of April as it looked like Upton was unleashing all of the potential greatness many had predicted going back to when he was the first overall pick of the 2005 draft as he slammed an incredible 12 home runs and 19 RBI while batting .298 before May showed up.  However true to his career-long form, Upton went back to his old inconsistent ways.  As April turned to May, Upton lost his ability to hit almost overnight as he smacked a grand total of only two home runs for the months with an awful .211 average.  The gaping holes in Upton's swing re-appeared and his fantasy baseball owners were getting set to buckle in for four more months of a wild ride.  When it was all said and done, Upton still had a very good 2013 season as evidenced by his final overall numbers:

.263 27 HR 70 RBI 94 R 8 SB

In looking deeper into the numbers, the huge problem was the 161 strikeouts in Upton's 558 at-bats.  That is a crazy high number which showed up in his mediocre batting average.  Also opposing pitchers were not so keen on giving Upton fastballs to hit after April was through which is why he hit only 15 the last five months of the season.  In addition, Upton showed less interest in stealing bases in taking only 8 in 9 attempts which was down from the 18 and 21 of the previous two seasons.  This summer Upton will turn 27-years-old which means he is now entering his prime years and likely has just this upcoming season to possibly tap into more ceiling.  However we are more likely seeing Upton for what he is and what he will continue to be which is a high K slugger who will hit between 25-30 home runs and around 80-90 RBI with 90 runs scored.  That has been his baseline since coming into the league and it really hasn't changed much.  The two stats that could sway things in the positive or negative direction though are the steals and average.  The fact Upton's put up a career-high in K's last season is a red flag for his ability to improve the average this season.  However keep in mind Upton did hit .289 and .280 the two seasons prior so there is hope.  The strikeout rate was so much higher last season than it was in 2012 and 2011 that we can possibly consider it a bit of an outlier.  With a second season in Atlanta, Upton could relax some more and improve.  However I am more inclined to say Upton will be more likely to hit .270 than .280 given what we saw recently.  As far as the steals are concerned, Upton could be stealing less due to the fact the Braves as a team don't tale many bases.  Even brother B.J. saw a sharp decline in steals so this could be a team mandate issue.  However Upton has good speed and is a smart base stealer so he could get back to the 15 mark no problem if he wishes.

When you put everything together, Upton looks like a low end outfielder 1 with a vanishing upside.  Count on good numbers in RBI, home runs, and runs while having some uncertainty with both his stolen bases and batting average.  We like him but don't love him like we once did when he first arrived on the scene a few seasons ago.

2014 PROJECTION:  .275 28 HR 91 RBI 95 R 14 SB

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