Justin Upton was one of this offseason’s prized free agents, and with good reason. He’s shown the ability to hit for power (.200+ ISO and 26+ homers in each of the last three seasons), get on base (.348 career OBP), and even steal a few bags (18 or more SBs in five out of the last seven seasons). At 28 years old, the odds were pretty good that there were still a few productive seasons left in the tank. The Detroit Tigers pounced on the fresh meat and decided to lavish a six year, $132.75 million contract upon Upton in January. Thus far, the carcass of this Upton has been more rancid than the ones described by Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle over a century ago. J-Up has managed to produce a measly .213/.259/.319 batting line with just 3 home runs, 1 stolen base, 22 runs, and 11 RBI through the first two months of the season. Eduardo Nunez and Coco Crisp have hit more homers. Renowned speedsters Buster Posey and Mike Napoli have swiped more bags. Backup catchers David Ross and Bobby Wilson have driven in more runs in a fraction of the at-bats. Umm… what in the blue hell is going on here? Is Upton washed up already? Is there any hope for a turnaround?

Let’s take a look at Upton’s profile to see if there’s hope for a rebound. Here are a few observations:

His walk and strikeout rates are awful. There’s no way to sugarcoat this. Upton has looked completely lost at the plate this season. His current 6.0% BB% would represent a career low, and his 36.3% K% would easily be a career worst mark for him. In fact, Upton is currently striking out at the highest rate in MLB. While he improved his walk rate from April to May (3.0% to 9.2%), his strikeout rate has remained sky high (38.4% in April; 34.7% in May). Perhaps an even bigger concern is the fact that…

His power has disappeared. Through the first third of the season, Upton’s .106 ISO ranks 152nd out of 179 qualified hitters and trails players such as Jon Jay and Didi Gregorius. His average flyball distance of 281.30 ft ranks 146th in MLB and continues it’s steady decline from 285.67 ft in 2015 and 299.82 ft in 2014. One positive thing to acknowledge is the fact that his current 5.8% HR/FB is well below his career average (14.6%), so that number is likely to correct itself somewhat in the near future, even when factoring in the decline in FB distance. It’s especially discouraging that Upton hasn’t been able to compensate for this declining power production on the basepaths since…

He doesn’t seem interested in running anymore. Upton has attempted to steal a base just once all season. While it’s natural for a player’s speed to decline quickly (even a 28 year old’s), a big factor here is likely his poor on-base skills (.259 OBP) this season. However, his 3.4 speed score and 0.3 UBR (Ultimate Base Running) rating are well below league average, indicating that he may have lost a step. Regardless, it’s impossible to steal bases without attempting to do so, and Upton seems content with running less at this point in his career. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is the fact that…

Luck hasn’t played much of a part in his early results. It’s easy to look at Upton’s .213 batting average and assume that balls just haven’t been falling in for him, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. His .327 BABIP actually represents his second highest mark since 2011, which might be somewhat fortunate considering the facts that his hard hit percentage (32.8%) is down while his soft hit percentage (23.3%) is up this year.

Bottom line: To say that Upton has been a disappointment this year would be an understatement. He’s not hitting for power or average, getting on base, or displaying the same speed that he’s shown in recent years. It would be easy to assume that a player with his talent and track record would turn things around at some point, especially considering his age and supporting cast in Detroit. The natural adjustment period to a new league, a new park, and unfamiliar pitchers shouldn’t be overlooked either. Unfortunately, Upton hasn’t shown the ability to make those adjustments, and his numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction. While something like a .245/20/7 pace could be reasonably expected over the remainder of the season, anything more than that might be unrealistic. Sell low if possible and avoid otherwise.

Final Verdict:

Brown Bear Walking in Snow

 

  1. Hot Rod

    Jimmy Bond says:
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    It is embarrassing to have kept or drafted him so high…He has become the Tigers’ Carlos Gomez.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Jimmy Bond: Yup. I drafted Upton in one of my leagues. So disappointing.

  2. Steve says:
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    I wonder if not having his brother on the same team is effecting him… They seem to wind up together an awful lot.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Steve: That might have a little bit to do with it, but he was just fine in Arizona on his own, and he’s too young for his physical skills to completely deteriorate. Very strange.

  3. J-FOH says:
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    So what you’re saying is I can’t trade him to Rudy now that you have blasted Upton out of the park…something he can’t do.

    Oh and Masterchef has started up again. If Ramses was describing Uptons dish he’d say. I thought this was the worst plate of this competition, then I thought about it and this is the worst dish ever…..on Masterchef

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @J-FOH: I’m sure that Rudy will still take him. Just don’t expect a ton in return. He probably has more trade value than Gomez, if that’s any consolation.

      Masterchef is on the DVR. I’ll have to check out the new season. But yeah, Upton would be like a raw piece of chicken on that show. Inedible!

      • i’m not taking justin upton. riding him out in a deeper league b/c i have little choice but he’s looking like hot garbage right now.

        • J-FOH says:
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          @Rudy Gamble: I think hot garbage would be a compliment. I liken Upton to hitting a septic tank with a pick ax and covering your whole body in crap

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @Rudy Gamble: Garbage that’s been sitting out in the summertime heat

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Big Magoo: At least Gomez had the decency to go on the DL with his “bad” rib. Upton is just dumpton all over my fantasy chest

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @J-FOH: Some people are into that kind of thing

  4. Toe Knee Arm Ass says:
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    I think JUP has always been a streaky hitter. He has always had periods of sucktitude. This streak has been longer than most. New league more than likely the cause. I still think he will be useful at some point. In shallow leagues he is droppable. In 12 teams or more I would hold or sell but I wouldn’t give him away. The problem with selling is really selling for pennies on the dollar worth it.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Toe Knee Arm Ass: There’s usually an adjustment period for a new league, new opponents, etc., but it’s been two months and 200+ plate appearances. His approach hasn’t changed. Same results. I’d wash my hands of him in shallow leagues. He’s more of a liability in your lineup than he would be a boon to someone else’s at this point, I think.

  5. Gonzo_The_Great says:
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    I’m a sad Upton owner (would have never drafted him, but had bad keepers and thought he’d just be the same Justin Upton he always is).

    There’s something to – well-regarded 28 year old outfielder BJ Upton signs big free agency contract and immediately becomes an albatross in a way that defies explanation, 4 years later well-regarded 28 year old outfielder Justin Upton signs big free agency contract and immediately becomes an albatross in a way that defies explanation. Some guys just get that big contract and take the rest of their career off (see, e.g. Sandoval and Ryan Howard for all but one season of the crazy extension).

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Gonzo_The_Great: I agree with Sandoval, but he’s always had issues with his work ethic/weight. Howard’s career took a nosedive after blowing out his Achilles. He was about 31/32 at that point I believe, so that was the likely turning point for him.

      I think J-Up at his peak was better than all of those players you listed, but work ethic could definitely be a part of it. Don’t forget that he has an opt-out after next season though, so he still has incentive to be productive and get another big payday.

  6. regan says:
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    Instead of a picture of a bear it should be a bear taking a giant shit. That’s how i feel about Upton this year. He is forever dead to me.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @regan: Haha, that sounds about right. He should be slightly better going forward. ind of like a domesticated bear that flushes afterwards.

  7. Ralph Lifshitz

    Ralph Lifshitz says:
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    Excellent connection with Justin Upton – Upton Sinclair thing. Kind of a Dick Sargent, Dick Patton, Sergeant Patton thing right? Okay, so not quite. Regardless here’s my dilemma. I have Brandon Drury in a 12 team head to head points league and someone just dropped J-Up. Do I use my wavier priority to drop Drury and add Upton? Even after looking it over I dismissed this as an extended bad streak for Upton and was trying to focus on the upside. After reading this I’m questioning the move. Upton will be a bench guy and someone I’m not depending on, but god has he been bad. Fortunately for me I own him no where.

    So what say you wise Magoo do I take the plunge and dump Drury for Upton?

    • J-FOH says:
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      @Ralph Lifshitz: I thought it was Dick Sargent Dick York…Sargent York?

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        @J-FOH: Fuck! You’re correct

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Ralph Lifshitz: Thanks, Ralph! I think I’d actually hold Drury there. Upton’s Ks are a killer in that format. How the mighty have fallen…

  8. Anthony says:
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    Here’s a good question for you! Long term keeper, what duo would you take..Correa/Mazara or Lindor/Betts?! Thanks!!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Anthony: Good one. All studs in that deal. I’d go with the Lindor/Betts side. Betts and Correa are about even, and I like Lindor a bit more than Mazara. Think he’s kind of like this generation’s Jeter. He should be good for a long time.

  9. John says:
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    Two weeks ago the consensus was “stay the course” and even buy low. Smart money on J Up. Two scary weeks later……here we are. I traded Archer for him two weeks ago. That probably put the nail in the coffin. Although somehow Archer’s implosions bothered me more.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @John: A month or so into the season, it’s usually wise to trust a player’s track record when evaluating trade targets. By early June, you have a decent idea of what that player is going to give you that season. In Upton’s case, not much. Though Archer is still struggling too, so I don’t think that deal will hurt you.

  10. Teddy Heater says:
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    The Upton Bros share a baseball soul, so only 1 of them can be good at a given time. As soon as BJ starts sucking again J-Up will be back to his old self. So here’s to BJ sucking again since I own J-Up everywhere!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Teddy Heater: BJ always implies sucking, no? There’s nowhere to go but up for J-Up, says the optimist.

      • Teddy Heater says:
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        @Big Magoo: Yep! “BJ stop being selfish and little your lil bro play with it for a while”

  11. JimmyJackJames says:
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    Roto with QS instead of W – who you got:

    Porcello/Grandy for Lo Cain

    Thanks!

  12. OaktownSteve says:
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    In the name of blind optimism I’ll go with: for his career, BA, OPS, SLG and ISO are all (marginally) better in the second half than the first.

    Upton is having the season Rudy said Desmond would have (hideous contarct rates esp vs breaking balls in new league) and Desmond is giving Upton numbers.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @OaktownSteve: It would be extremely difficult for Upton to be worse in the 2nd half, so there’s that. If you happen to be reading this, that’s not a challenge, J-Up!

      After a rough start, Desmond has been awesome. Good call there. He’s playing for that big contract this offseason, and considering the FA options, he has a good chance of getting it.

      • OaktownSteve says:
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        @Big Magoo:

        I think he’ll get 3 or possibly 4 years and maybe in the 18MM AAV range. Will be looked at as a CF. I think the Mets overpaid for Cespedes…though it looks good now. He got 3 and 75. Bout the same age.

        • Big Magoo

          Big Magoo says:
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          @OaktownSteve: That’s a good guess. I could see him getting a slightly more lucrative 5 year deal in this market though. Strasburg is off the board. Bautista and EE are older. Gomez has been terrible. Cespedes will probably opt out. It’s a very weak group though.

  13. Roger Anderson says:
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    Trea Turner is up Friday! (Grabbed him even though I have Walker, Odor, Correa, Lindor, and Lowrie for backup with Holt on the DL) I am a magnet for MI I guess. Besides Holt, who do I drop?

    • Roger Anderson says:
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      @Roger Anderson: NOT DROP , trade. No way he goes cheap.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Roger Anderson: If you get Turner, you could lose Lowrie there. You’d still be swimming in MIs too. Plenty of trade bait.

      • Roger Anderson says:
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        @Big Magoo: Lowrie has been part of a hot Asstack – Burns, Lowrie, Valencia, & K Davis. All good things must end. I grabbed Correa on his call up and never regretted a minute. Hopefully the same here!

  14. Beastman says:
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    As a J Upton owner, this is certainly sobering analysis! How sad…

    What’s your take in a 16 team, 6×6 H2H with deep rosters and limited streaming:

    Hosmer or Archer and Freeman?

    And would McCullers be good value for Pujols?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Beastman: In a shallow format, I’d go with the best player there (Hosmer), but in a 16 teamer, I’d take the Archer/Freeman side. And yeah, McCullers over Pujols, especially if it’s a keeper/dynasty league.

  15. Hot Rod

    Jimmy Bond says:
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    which side you like – archer for Frazier& JUpton? Points keeper league

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Jimmy Bond: Frazier/Upton side, mostly because I think that Archer is pitching through an injury

  16. Sasquatch Slugger says:
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    The only way J Ups year is saved and he hits at least 25 dingers is….if I drop or trade him. Scientific fact!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Sasquatch Slugger: That’s usually how it works. Science!

  17. The Theory says:
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    I’m the lucky duck who drafted Upton in 3 of my 4 leagues this year. Never been much of an Upton guy, but everything seemed so primed for a great year for him that I bought into the possibilities.

    Now I’m keeping him on my bench when I can. C’est la vie.

    Even in my shallower leagues I’ve been reluctant to drop him–something that gets harder each time I look at waivers and see guys massively outperforming him.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @The Theory: He should be better in the 2nd half, but he hasn’t shown signs of rebounding yet. The ability is there. You never know! That being said, I’d take someone like a Duvall over him if available.

  18. I got $100 for groceries, $1400 for liquor, and $6,000 for you to bail a couple of shit puppets out of jail says:
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    traded for him in pretty much every 6 or more keeper i could in for decent price in the last 2.3 or so years.
    1. 20 teamer r.iglesias + melancon for upton (late last year). would’ve had to drop a decent SP anyway if no deal here, and earlier in year had thrown ozuna (worse than upton right now, or so) away.
    2. 16 teamer bunch of crap i couldn’t keep anyway + a.miller + brinson for upton (this year preseason)
    3. 16 team keep 6, draft pick upgrade (2nd off board after keepers, 2 years ago)
    thank god price was too high in others. last year’s steals uptick really had me loving him more than even usual too, and moving to a good offense.

      • I got $100 for groceries, $1400 for liquor, and $6,000 for you to bail a couple of shit puppets out of jail says:
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        @I got $100 for groceries, $1400 for liquor, and $6,000 for you to bail a couple of shit puppets out of jail: one beacon of hope-based-theory, if there’s any merit to saying that bj upton got shitty after signing big deal at the same age as justin is now, this also could’ve been explained by bj’s moving across leagues. there is a big negative to this theory though, and here’s what it is; if true, that the upton’s are just REALLY slow at adjusting to league changes after big contracts at age 28, i’m pretty sure justin won’t go back to his skill set until about july 2017 or so. but that is better than never. bj didn’t start looking usable till about, what about was it 1.7 or (god no) 2.7 years into his ATL years?

      • I got $100 for groceries, $1400 for liquor, and $6,000 for you to bail a couple of shit puppets out of jail says:
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        @Big Magoo: yeah, having all of benintendi/dahl, and now delino as CF and in NA slots, along with d.peralta/ellsbury/jd mart so by mid-late 2017 i’d have serious roster crunch for all those (for 5 spots), so figured i’d solve 2 birds with one stone while also getting performing player now, with assumption of upton being performing player.

  19. jdub01984 says:
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    Just for shots and goggles, would you rather have Justin Upton or Jason Heyward? I had both, but luckily I had Stephen Piscotty and Jay Bruce to balance out heir suckiness.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @jdub01984: I’d take Heyward. He’s shown some flashes recently, and hits 2nd in a loaded lineup. Steals and lower K-rate give him a higher floor too.

  20. OldMilwaukeePounders says:
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    Magoo,

    Interesting comp above for Lindor. I’ve not heard anyone make a Lindor = Jeter comp. I am in a small league where I took over a poor team. Lindor was cut due to very small rosters. I can keep 8. Here is what I have in terms of keeper potential:

    Miggy, Altuve, Franco, C Seager, Blackmon, Mazara, Sano, N Cruz, Upton

    Do you think it worth while to add Lindor to that mix? The roster is set up like this:

    C, 1b, 2b, ss, 3b, OF, OF, OF, UTL, UTL

    Thanks, homie!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @OldMilwaukeePounders: It’s not a perfect comp (Jeter was taller and had a bit more pop; Lindor is a slightly better defender), but in terms of a middle infielder with a .300/12/25 type of skillset, he’s the first player who came to mind. Fairly similar plate discipline too, especially early on.

      In a shallow league with no MI slot, it’s a tough call with Seager already rostered. With several mashers like Mazara/Sano/Cruz/Franco/Miggy in the fold, I think I’d take Lindor over Upton. He’ll give you a boost in avg/runs/steals and provide the flexibility to deal either him or Seager down the line. Probably won’t be a huge dropoff in homers or ribbies either.

      • OldMilwaukeePounders says:
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        @Big Magoo: Thanks, man. Going forward I’d probably have to consider dropping Upton in my waiver claim for Lindor. My team most likely is not in a win now mode, but I could finish in top half potentially.

        Thanks again. I’ll be putting a claim on Lindor for sure.

  21. Drexel Hill Dragons says:
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    Do you prefer Upton or Puig in a Dynasty League w/OBP in place of BA?

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @Drexel Hill Dragons: Tough one. I want to say Puig due to youth and upside, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. I feel like he would’ve broken out by now if it was going to happen. He just seems to be regressing. I’d take Upton there.

  22. DominicanPower says:
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    I can’t believe I drafted this fool over JD Martinez.

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @DominicanPower: Don’t worry. I drafted Carlos Gomez in several leagues. Can’t hit on all of your picks.

  23. John says:
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    I come to you for non-emotional advice sir!

    I was offered Freeman for my J Up. I feel the minute I let him go, he will get hot! Freeman is safer but not much in the counting stats himself and he is on a putrid offensive team. (The other hard part was I traded Archer to get J Up two weeks ago when folks were seeing that as a smart move so perhaps I am too vested in this one cuz Archer for Freeman would be the be result). Thoughts?

    • Johnc says:
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      @John:

      I should add that Freeman would replace Park as my third CI. Is Freeman much of an upgrade over Park cuz I would need to drop Park to stream? Other option would be J Up for his struggling Heyward.

      Lots of words here, sorry. Do yo charge by the word?

      Do I trade J Up for Freeman, then drop Park for streaming?
      Do I trade J Up for Heyward exchanging problem children?
      Do I hold J Up and then maybe drop Park for Suarez?
      Do. Just hold altogether?
      Thanks for your patience

  24. John says:
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    I am doing it your way. It makes sense. Like the math. I can drop Semien and slot Suarez there. Semien is 25% owned so it’s not like I am giving up the farm LOL. If Park and Suarez go off on the same week, it will be big. I already K a lot and lose that cat regularly, so that is ok. Strangely I hit for average with Betts, Marte, Polanco and now Goldy hitting better. I beat the top two teams like a drum over the past two weeks so feeling good as I went from 11th to 7th. Comeback trail Sir!

    • Big Magoo

      Big Magoo says:
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      @John: Nice! Yeah, the only thing that you’d be giving up in a Semien/Suarez swap is a handful of steals, which isn’t a need for you anyway. I like Suarez a little bit more in the HR/RBI cats, and they’re pretty even just about everywhere else. Keep it going!

      • John says:
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        @Big Magoo:

        So you stopped me from dealing J Up for Freeman which many others suggested I do. Tonight J Up hits a HR, grabs a SB tonight and bingo …..I get a trade offer with me getting Frazier straight up for J Up. Wow! Accept, accept! J Up can go off for his new team and I will be ok with that. I needed a CI and got a late second rounder for him. (And Freeman still plays for The Braves).

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