Key Stats: Upton has had two seasons where he put up a respectable average to go along with his power and speed. Unfortunately, it’s been 3 years since those two seasons have passed. There is good news though. Upton is assured a starting job, and he is assured of finishing in the neighborhood of 20 HR’s and 40 steals. That kind of power and speed combination is tough to come by, as evidenced by a Mock Draft Central ADP in the 5th round despite not batting over .243 the last three years.
Skeptics Say: The batting average is tough to choke down, sorta like dinner in Rapper’s Delight, but it really isn’t as bad as it seems according to Jason Catania. We can take the positive that his BB rate has increased each of the last three seasons, but he still swings and misses so much that the low average hurts his OBP.
Peer Comparison: What a difference a year makes. Last season in our Top Players countdown at the now defunct FantasyBaseballHostove.com, we asked who would we rather take on draft day, Upton or Drew Stubbs? Both are blazing fast, had 20ish HR power, strike out like the dickens and post below league average AVGs. We recommended Stubbs. He went on to hit 7 less HR’s in 100 more PA’s, and led the majors in strikeouts. Bossman Junior on the other hand, increased his AVG, increased his BB rate, decreased his K rate, and hit 5 more HR compared to the previous season. Mistakes happen, and 2011 is a new season. Batted ball data is favoring Upton, as he has increased his line drive rate each of the past three years. Stubbs also increased his LD rate from ’10 to ’11. His strikeouts, paired with a big drop in fly balls and a 4% drop in HR/FB rate, were the culprit for his below projected power numbers, possibly due to his changing his approach at the plate batting lead off, compared to 6th in 2010.
This season Stubbs is ranked 101 here and Upton 63 and with good reason. Not only did Stubbs regress, but he actually just did what was on par for him in the minor leagues. We got a little too excited about the amount of pop he gave us that first full season, and regressed back to what should have been expected. In fact, writing this article and researching this a bit more, I’m tempted to go back and take away 3 -5 HR’s and some RBI’s I’ve projected for Stubbs this year. Upton meanwhile has just gone on being Upton, and that’s worth a 5th round pick.
Team Outlook: The Rays are going to be the Rays again. They have pitching and a lineup that I think is improved from last year. They have Carlos Pena back, who will be Pena (no average, lots of HRs) and they picked up Luke Scott, who will be DHing. While the name isn’t exciting, Scott is a streaky player who averages 23 HR’s when he gets in over 100 games a year. I’ll throw in my line here about full seasons from Longoria and Jennings, and this is a solid lineup that will score runs.
Projection: Could this be the year that BJ Upton finally gets back to batting .300? No. How about .270? Not quite. Will he continue to provide us with top notch steal totals and above league average power? Yes. He is an excellent pick provided you plan accordingly to make up for the glaring weak spot that will be his AVG.
.249 AVG, 19 HR, 92 R, 63 RBI, 38 Steals and a .341 OBP in 560 ABs.