B.J. Upton is a borderline star in the fantasy game. If you take the season best marks from the elder Upton in the standard five offensive fantasy categories, you’d be staring at a guy with the following line: .300-24-82-89-44. Unfortunately, Upton also has hit a mere .257 in his career, has struck out at least 150 times in four of the last five years, and he always seems to be one play away from being benched for lackadaisical play. Currently ranked as the 20th outfielder according to MockDraftCentral, should Upton be going off draft boards earlier than his 64.5 ADP mark?
Let’s go season by season with Upton.
2007: He was one of nine players to go 20/20 with 80 RBI/Runs.
2008: He was one of five players to steal 40 bases with 85 runs.
2009: He was one of five players to steal 40 bases with 75 runs.
2010: He was one of two players to hit 15 HRs with 40 SBs and 85 runs.
2011: He was one of four players to go 20/30 with 80 RBI/Runs.
The point here should be obvious. As I mentioned out at the start of this piece, there are certainly issues with B.J., and in the fantasy game the biggest concern is certainly that poor batting average, but there is no denying that the guy can light up a fantasy score sheet. The thing that set apart Upton is that he posses solid power which he combines with elite speed. There’s simply no way around that. The past five years, here is what an “average” Upton effort has looked like: .257-17-69-84-37. For five years now Upton has nearly averaged a 20/40 season with 70 RBI and 85 runs. Those are big time fantasy numbers. Just ask yourself this question; how many guys in baseball can you say have a legitimate shot at 20 homers and 40 steals in 2012? It’s a pretty small group isn’t it?
As for his batting average, you’re just going to have to plan around that. Though he hit .300 in 2007, Upton has settled in as a guy who will struggle to get a hit every four at-bats (he’s been under .245 the past three years). What that means is that if you draft Upton you had better augment your club with a .300 hitter or two. The main reason that Upton isn’t going to hit much better than .250 is that he strikes out in a quarter of his at-bats. Upton does take a walk though, even with all those punchouts he still owns a career 0.45 BB/K mark which is basically league average. Unless he suddenly figures it out at the dish, and the chance of that happening is pretty darn small at this point of his career, it just might be time to admit that Upton simply isn’t going to be someone who is going to help you in the batting average category.
In the fantasy game we like to down players for what they can’t do more than we prop them up for what they can do. Take the case of Michael Bourn. Everyone knows that he is the most consistent stolen base threat in the game, but most also look at him and say ‘he’s not a great fantasy option cause he never hits a homer and rarely knocks in a run.’ People fail to realize that his elite speed makes him at top-50 fantasy player every year. The same situation, at least partially, occurs with Upton. People get scared off by the poor batting average an overlook just how effective that Upton is on the base paths. Think of it like this. There are 10 men in baseball who have at least 130 steals the past four seasons. The only player in that group with 60 homers is Upton (he has 61). Not just that, only three men have 130 steals and more than 40 homers (the other two are Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford). Upton will never be truly elite in the fantasy game because of that lowly average, but if he were able to channel his 2007 self – the one that hit .300 – Upton could be a top-5 fantasy outfielder in 2012.
By the way, of you’re looking to do a mock draft, Fealflicker has you covered.
By Ray Flowers