Friday, May 20, 2016


As free agency went along this past winter, a few names stood out in terms of going unsigned as spring training drew closer and closer.  In particular it was the outfielders who were not getting as much love as expected on the open market and was highlighted by the late availability of both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton.  Never shy about spending money, the Tigers wound up jumping in late to sign Upton to what many in the industry perceived to be a grossly inflated contract since they were pretty much bidding against themselves.  Meanwhile Cespedes was forced to settle for what amounted to a one-year deal with the New York Mets after not getting any love from his former team.  It was the decision to go with Upton over Cespedes that ultimately put the Tigers in an early bind this season, what with the former struggling badly and the latter looking ready to challenge for NL MVP honors. 

As far as Justin Upton is concerned, the narrative began cemented a few seasons ago as he made his way from the Arizona D-Backs, to the Atlanta Braves, and into San Diego with the Padres.  A very streaky power hitter whose high K rate doomed his batting average, Upton was the kind of up and down like an elevator player who seemingly annoyed you greatly one week and then had you jumping for joy the next.  In the end Upton would have his 25 home runs, a few steals, and solid counting stats in runs and RBI.  Unfortunately 2016 has not gone according to this script as Upton goes into Friday's games with the following numbers:

2 HR
17 R
10 RBI
1 SB

In a word "UGLY!"  Upton has had big time troubles in his first go-round with the Tigers and there are some major reason to discuss here why things have gone so badly.  The first issue which has also resulted in slow starts for sluggers Adam Lind and until May Todd Frazier, is that the change from the NL to the AL has resulted in Upton facing a slew of pitchers he has never faced before.  That unfamiliarity is clearly hurting Upton at the plate as he has not had ONE extended power surge like he does a few times each typical season.  Further evidence of his this is found in Upton's sky-high K rate which is a truly obscene 37.3 percent.  Now Upton's K rate has risen over the last few years but his 37.3 mark is absolutely disgusting and shows just how bad his struggles have been.  Even more horrific is the fact that Upton's .354 BABIP is squarely in the LUCKY area code which means his average should be even WORSE.  No matter how you slice it, Upton has been hideous. 

So is a buy low in order?  With the season now almost two months old, Upton has shown no signs of emerging from his funk.  On the positive side, he is only 28 and remains a very powerful hitter.  The problem is that Upton can't make consistent contact and that means more trouble lies ahead.  The name brand likely means you won't get him as cheap as the numbers would indicate but Upton has been trending too much in the negative direction to even tough him right now.  Ugliness all around with the veteran and overall I would avoid this headache. 

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