Wednesday, January 20, 2016


It took awhile but Justin Upton finally found a home in free agency.  Typical of a Scott Boras client, Upton waited out the process and ultimately was rewarded with a six-year deal worth more than $132 million dollars from the Detroit Tigers.  For Upton, he gets long-term security and a clear mind as he continues to hit during his prime years.  For the Tigers, it completed a very productive offseason that saw the team also bring in Francisco Rodriguez and Jordan Zimmerman.  With that said, let's take another look at Upton and figure out what he could offer his fantasy baseball owners this season. 

On the surface, the knee-jerk reaction for some would be disappointment in Upton signing on with the Tigers due to the pitching-leaning dimensions of Comerica Park.  However Upton did just fine in an even worse park for hitters last season, when he did his one year stint with the San Diego Padres and their mammoth Petco Park.  Despite how tough it is to hit home runs there, Upton actually hit more bombs in Petco (15) then he did on the road (11).  Upton in fact has the type of light-tower natural power that can't be held in any ballpark and so location pretty much means nothing when it comes to his home runs.  Now as he enters into his age-28/29 season, Upton is pretty much who he is now as far as a borderline outfielder 1/top-end outfielder 2 for fantasy baseball purposes. 

As the former first round pick overall in the 2005 draft, Upton has had monstrous expectations attached to his name that made him a first round fantasy baseball draft pick almost right away based more on what he COULD do and not what he was actually producing at the dish.  However Upton performed very nicely in terms of solid power/speed numbers but with some ugly batting averages due to a career-long issue with strikeouts.  Now 8 years into his career, Upton has hit 20 or more home runs 5 times.  Only once has he reached the 30 home runs plateau and that came in 2011 when he smacked 31 in Arizona's dry air.  Over the last three seasons, Upton has hit 27, 29, and 26 home runs and so that seems to be the firm average that the slugger falls into each and every season.  Comerica Park should keep Upton under 30 once again.  With those home runs with come 80-plus RBI like the 81 Upton drove in last season.  As good a home run hitter as he has been, Upton has only driven in 80 or more RBI 4 times which is a tad disappointing.  The Detroit lineup is decent but not a barn burner which means 80-90 RBI sounds about right to go with a runs total in that same range. 

As far as the rest of the numbers, Upton stole 19 bases last season which was his highest total since again 2011.  This was very encouraging after Upton stole just 8 both in 2013 and 2014.  It seemed Upton was beginning to lose interest in stealing bases then but last season showed he is still very capable of doing a nice job there.  While I won't suggest Upton will steal 10, 15 is a good place to project.  Finally, the batting average is the one spot we can nail Upton on as he is just a career .271 hitter due to some major strikeout issues.  Upton has actually gotten worse in the average department during the last three seasons as he has batted .2263, .270, and a very ugly .251 last year.  Upton has now struck out over 100 times each and ever single season of his career and again the K rate has been a ridiculously high 25 percent or more the last three years.  Ugly numbers for sure and that means projecting Upton as anything more than a .265 is asking a ton. 

When you put it all together, Justin Upton is once again a good low-end outfielder 1 or high-end outfielder 2 in 2016 fantasy baseball.  The average is ugly but Upton helps in the other four standard fantasy baseball categories.  While there is no more upside left, you pretty much know what you will get out of Upton which is a bit comforting in the always crazy draft process. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .266 28 HR 88 RBI 95 R 14 SB 


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