We continue our 2010 fantasy baseball keeper posts with B.J. Upton. At first, I was going to write about Justin Upton, but I figured he was such a no-brainer that I didn’t need to dedicate a keeper post to him. Of course he’s a keeper. B.J.’s much more interesting. In his short major league career, he’s shown all the tools that once had the scouts drooling over him. B.J., tools, drooling, you do the math. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown them all the tools at the same time. A B.J. hasn’t had this many ups and downs since Chloe Sevigny in The Brown Bunny. The closest B.J., um, came was at the age of 22 in 2007 when he hit 24 homers and stole 22 bases while batting .300 in 474 at-bats. That season led everyone to the assumption Upton was a sure 30/30 threat. Unlimited potential. He was like Hal Ashby before the 80’s. Then Upton’s age 23 season came and his power disappeared. Hrmph. Reports came out that he was playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It zapped his power. We excused him. The 44 steals made the medicine go down. In 2009, it was more of the same and this time the average bottomed out, too. So where’s the power? Is it ever returning? What’s up with the average? Is he steals and nothing else? To the point, is B.J. Upton a solid fantasy baseball keeper for 2010?
Let’s tackle average first. In 2009, his line drive rate fell (15.4% from 18.9% in 2008) and his walks plummeted (9.2% from 15.4% in 2008). Meantime, his fly ball rate went through the roof (for him) from 30.6% in 2008 to 40.3% in 2009. His K-rate also went up. This leads me to think he was swinging at balls he didn’t used to swing at and trying to do too much with them. This isn’t much of a limb, the numbers bear this out with him swinging at nearly 5% more pitches outside the strike zone. This might sound Tim McCarverish, but he needs to relax, wait for his pitch and his average should turn around. I’d bet on a .270 average from him in 2010. As for the evaporated power, it’s a bit trickier. His home run per fly ball ratio in 2007 was 19.8%. That seems to be an outlier. He’s probably closer to a 10-12% home run to fly ball hitter. That still puts him in the 15 homer range. The steals are there, obviously. So if a 15/40 hitter with a .270 average is a keeper for your team, I’d keep B.J. Upton.