It’s a “dudes who have been dropped in a lot of mixed leagues” edition. These two have disappointed in different ways – one with fairly low expectations, one with optimistic forecasts – but both of their outcomes have been roughly equal in terms of suckitude. The signs, lately, both performance-wise and in terms of team dynamics, have given fantasy owners reasons for cautious optimism going forward, though.
OF B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
Ownership: CBS 32% | Yahoo! 27% | ESPN 37.3%
The Bravos have already pulled the plug on Dan Uggla (.175/.252/.254 in 127 plate appearances). Tommy La Stella projects to produce little in the way of fantasy statistics, but he should deliver his club stability at the keystone.
Upton (.221/.296/.357 in 224 plate appearances), then, would seem to be next in the crosshairs. Atlanta’s attitude toward their major free-agent signing of two winters ago has been a bit more forgiving, however. Multiple staffers have expressed confidence in and satisfaction with what they haven’t been able to describe as anything more than slow and steady progress. He’s committed to the toil required for a turnaround. He’s now sporting specs.
To be fair to Upton, he’s provided his team with notably more value than Uggla because of his above-par defense and less crappy stick work. The Braves’ alternatives to Upton – Jordan Schafer and minor leaguers Jose Constanza and Todd Cunningham, 25 – are underwhelming, as well.
Tell your children: Hard work doesn’t always pay off, at least in the way that its doer hopes at the time. Upton may eventually learn that it’s time to become a restaurateur, engineer or plumber. He may be happier in the end, but he wants to be more successful at baseball again. His fantasy owners want that for him. Or is it for them? Selfish bastards.
Upton has taken baby steps. Before he incorporated the glasses into his uniform ensemble, he hit .205/.287/.295 in 87 plate appearances; after, .231/.301/.397 in 137 plate appearances, with a notable bump in ISO. Fredi Gonzalez dropped him from the two-hole for 14 games, beginning on May 5. The move coincided with a strikeout binge, but Upton said that he didn’t want to use it as an excuse.
Besides, Upton and hitting coach Greg Walker weren’t finished tinkering. The former requested help to quiet his hands pre-load. Prior to the change: .203/.272/.329 in 159 plate appearances; after, .268/.354/.429, with a 12.3 BB% and 16.9 K%, in 65 plate appearances, with his BABIP remaining around a very modest .300, as it has all season. Walker said that he believed he noticed distinct differences in Upton’s swing plane. The fly-chaser’s fly-ball rate appears to be on the rebound.
We’re dealing with small samples here, but the results are pretty encouraging. To this point, approximately halfway to his 2013 total of plate appearances, Upton has been markedly better in terms of wOBA (.252 to 2.92), wRC+ (56 to 83) and value on offense (-21.7 to -2.8). It’s not positive worth, but it’s improvement, and there’s reason to believe that it’ll get better. Watching him today, against the Seattle Mariners and Hisashi Iwakuma, he looks as if he might still be trying to find his triggers and timing a little. It may take more time, if it comes, against hurlers who are more deliberate.
Of course, if Upton produces, then naturally he’s hitting home runs and stealing bases. He has five and nine, respectively, thus far. He could end up 15-25 or 20-30.
In those leagues in which he’s been dropped, it’s a good time to take a shot. Why wouldn’t you, just in case this turns out to be something large … or medium … or even small but useful? You can probably still get in on the sub-$10 floor in leagues with a $100 free-agent budget. Those in NL-only leagues may want to nibble, come to an inquiry about him indirectly, too see if they can still acquire him at a discount.
SS Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners
Ownership: CBS 32% | Yahoo! 29% | ESPN 3.8%
Eno and I talked about him on Tuesday in the podcast. Miller hasn’t made drastic changes to his preparation or something, at least that have been reported. But he’s gradually corrected flaws in his plate discipline, particularly on swings outside the zone. The improvement has had a noticeably positive effect on his rates of walks and strikeouts.
Miller has started to see better results, too. From May 16 forward, he’s batted .250/.385/.344 in 40 plate appearances. He homered on June 1 for the first time since April 11.
Just as good of an endorsement is the M’s decision to option Nick Franklin to Triple-A Tacoma. The switch-hitting middle infielder continues to disappoint at the major league level in his limited opportunities. As Eno put it, Miller appears to have weathered the storm.
For the rest of the season, Miller could produce something like a .250/.325/.400 slash line, with double-digit round-trippers and something approaching the same in stolen bases. He’s capable of more, but we may be false prophets, too. Don’t let your expectation get carried away and set you up for disappointment. Still, those numbers play in deep mixed leagues (15-team, as well as 12-team with 23-man lineups), especially those with OBP instead of AVG.
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