Buying B.J. Upton

After signing the biggest free agent contract in the history of the franchise, B.J. Upton’s start to his Atlanta tenure was obviously lackluster. Posting consecutive months with a wRC+ south of 40 is a bad way to kick off your experiences in a new city, especially a city that has playoff and World Series expectations.

Things turned around for Upton in more ways than one, and those fantasy owners who were willing to stick it out with Upton have been rewarded. Since he is still being started in less than 50% of Yahoo! leagues, there is still a sense out there that either Upton is still struggling or that he will start to struggle again soon. This has me looking at Upton as a buyer rather than a seller. A lot of traditional fantasy players may be thinking they can move Upton at this point since he has gotten going. And a lot more probably think they would like to see more of him producing before they make a bet on him. That’s why I think there is an opportunity to grab him for pretty cheap right now, which is what I plan to do in any league I don’t own Upton in already.

Looking at his June numbers, things went the right way for Upton for once this year. His walk rate was a robust 16.5%, his strikeout rate dropped to 24.3%, and he ended up with an .812 OPS backed by four homers and four steals. That is just under a homer and a steal per week, which is obviously very serviceable.

For the year, he has struggled more against lefties than righties, which is a trend you would not expect to continue given his career stats. If he straightens himself out against lefties (currently has a 33 wRC+ against southpaws) he should be able to be the B.J. Upton of old, which is mighty valuable in fantasy formats. While Upton does not hit for a high average, he is probably not far from being named the team’s leadoff man. Andrelton Simmons has struggled at the dish this season and with Upton on the rise, he has a decent chance of jumping up to the top of the order. This should allow him to get more plate appearances to up those homer and steal numbers, which is where Upton really makes his bones.

He will not be a 30-30 guy as many hoped entering the season, but the chances for him to get to 20-20 are still there. ZiPs has him hitting 11 more homers and stealing 14 more bases, which are two very solid numbers that I would love to have on my fantasy roster. He may struggle in other areas, but being exceptional in those categories is what has made Upton such a great fantasy player this season. See how much an owner will trade him for in your league and make the jump to acquire him if he’s affordable.

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Ben Duronio writes for Capitol Avenue Club, FanGraphs, and does the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings. Follow Ben on twitter @Ben_Duronio.

11 Responses to “Buying B.J. Upton”

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  1. mikeincmn says:

    Is Ben Revere too much to give to try and get Upton?

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    • shibboleth says:

      I’d flip Revere for Upton’s upside.

      Remember, Upton is a roller coaster but you stay in your seat for stuff like September 2012 when he had the following line: 12 HR, 6 SB, and a 941 OPS.

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  2. Jeff says:

    I did Carlos Quentin for B.J. Upton about two weeks ago. I feel good about that swap. Upton should give me about the same power and more speed, even if the BA stays low. If he moves up in the order, I can get lots of runs, too.

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  3. Matt says:

    That 92 mph pitch right down the middle that he swung through yesterday was tough to watch.

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  4. JR says:

    Who do you like better ROS, BJ or D.Fowler? Both just got dropped and I’m sitting with the #1 waiver slot. Any advise?

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    • Froglegs Jackson says:

      I’d go with Fowler. Better batting average, better home park, significantly higher floor. Upton’s contact rate still scares me. Though his upside is tantalizing.

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  5. James says:

    The only stat I’m worried about is BJ Upton’s infield flyball rate this year (23.3%), that’s when he doesn’t strike out. He’s really streaky (a la Jay Bruce), but I think an upswing should be starting soon…

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  6. Matt says:

    Upton is above those 250-260, 20-25 hr guys (think joyce, kubel in ’12) and speedsters like revere, but definitely not guys that have already done his upside like fowler

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  7. Ruki Motomiya says:

    I managed to get B.J. Upton around mid-may, slightly towards the end, for the low low price of Trevor Cahill and Vernon Wells during their “Sell High” stages.

    Feelin’ pretty good.

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  8. Josh says:

    I picked up BJ off the waiver wire a few weeks ago hopeing he would turn it around. I had the depth to afford to sit him. After reading this post, I’m feeling mighty blessed.

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  9. jake says:

    my current outfield is carlos gonzales, justin upton, josh hamilton, bj upton, norichika aoki, and dominic brown. ben revere is available to pick up, should i drop any of these players to pick him up?

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