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Moving On Up(ton)

If it’s ok with Eno I’m going to take the format he used in the first paragraph of his Josh Hamilton piece and apply it to B.J. Upton.

For a 28-year-old outfielder we have a surprising abundance of information about B.J. Upton. 4,000 or so plate appearances. Six full seasons and he has nearly two whole years until he touches 30. He’s worn the masks of several different players during his time in the big leagues, so it’s been tough to pin him down. He’s been the high walk, low power base stealer (2008), the all power, no OBP guy (2012), the low average, moderate power guy (2010-2011), the bust (2009) and the all-around All Star (2007). Over the past few years it appears his true form has come to light.

He’s going to hit for power, steal bases and strike out a lot. The beautiful thing about most fantasy leagues is that his OBP, one thing that’s kept him from being a superstar, doesn’t matter. If you’re solely looking at the five standard categories, AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB, then Upton is an excellent player, especially last season. His home runs have increased each of the past five years, from 9 in 2007 to 28 in 2012. Mike Trout and Ryan Braun were the only players who could best Upton’s blend of power and speed last seasons. They were the only players to have 30+HR and 30+SB but Upton came the next closest at 28HR and 31SB. The added power came at the expense of plate discipline but it’s a tradeoff fantasy owners should be happy to live with.

Upton, acting like an honorary Toronto Blue Jay, swung more, at pitches inside and outside the zone, than he ever had last season (52%). His swing rates have increased every year across the board since 2009 and his contact rate was a career low 70% last season. That’s the only thing that would worry me going forward. If he’s able to swap a few points in contact percentage for a few more home runs then it’s not a big deal, but that’s a dangerous game.

It’s worth noting that he’s been a very streaky player over the past two seasons. He’s had his ups and downs from April-August but has really turned it on in September. In 2011 his September OPS was 1.038 and last season it was .902 and no player hit more than his 12 home runs. He finished at number 15 overall in our rankings with a $15 value, coming in $1 behind Giancarlo Stanton, Jay Bruce and Josh Willingham.

His home for 2013 is uncertain, but the Braves and Phillies look like front runners for his services. It won’t always be a smooth ride with Upton, but he’s just entering what are considered his “prime” seasons. Many people still believe a season even better than his 2007 campaign is coming. Even if that’s not the case he should continue to be a top 20 fantasy outfielder for years to come.