Justin Upton Profile (Fantasy Baseball)

by Stan Son | @Stan_Son | Featured Writer
Mar 20, 2017

Will Justin Upton prove more consistent in his second season in the AL?

Remember that hot, crazy chick you just couldn’t get away from? Yeah, me neither. From what I’ve heard, though, the experience would be very similar to owning Justin Upton in fantasy baseball. At the end of the season, you look and admire the final stats, but boy….what a ride it was to get there.

Upton was the first-overall selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks way back in 2005. He rocketed through the minor league system and made his major league debut in 2007, at the age of only 19. He had mixed results early on, but even Mike Trout struggled in the beginning! He did exhibit his potential, especially in the playoffs, which got baseball fans super excited for the future.

2009 was when he officially broke out and became a thing. .300 batting average with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases in only 138 games. Hot chick alert!!! But even hot chicks have their blemishes. You just need to look for them. Upton was ice cold to start the 2009 season. Sound familiar? In addition, he was viewed as being an athletic, yet mistake-prone outfielder and led all major league outfielders in errors that season.

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In two of the next three years (2010 & 2012), Upton tallied 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases. It was the 2011 season that put Upton on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazine. Wrong Upton? Justin hit .289, mashed 31 home runs, and stole 21 bases with a paltry 18.7% strikeout rate (a career low) in 2011. It all came together. The perfect season.

Unfortunately, that was the pinnacle and never to be duplicated again. Over the next four years, Upton was traded three times, stole 10+ bases only once, and annually struck out at least 25% of the time.

What can we expect for 2017?

I’ll start with the negative.

Upton is a streaky hitter. That’s been his M.O. from the beginning. Last year, from the start of the season to the end of May, Upton hit .217 with three home runs, and one stolen base. He walked 6.1% and struck out a gross 36.5% of the time. From June 1st to the end of the season, Upton hit .259 with 28 home runs, eight stolen bases, increased his walk rate to 8.9%, and lowered the strikeout rate to 25%.

Stomaching volatility is a given with owning Upton. He’s pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it kind of player, but not in a flattering way. Some players are like that because they are just so darn good. With Upton, you have to leave him in your lineup because you never know when he’s going to go off.

Upton is going to strikeout a lot. His swinging strike rate will be close to 13% and his contact rates hover in the 70% range. You can expect a strikeout rate in the high-20’s.

Now, for the positive.

He’s still hitting the ball hard, as his hard contact rate increased 2% to 37.9%. That number was 26th-best in all of baseball last year.

While his contact and walk rates aren’t great, his plate discipline numbers are pretty good. The number I focus on is percentage of pitches swung outside the strike zone. That number was 25.7%, which was 31st-best in baseball.

The final piece to the puzzle for me is the trade that happened before the start of the 2016 season. After spending his entire career in the National League, he was moved to the American League. This means that Upton had to learn and experience a whole new set of pitchers. There’s no hard data to prove how much of an impact that had on his slow start, but I do believe it was pretty substantial.

Upton is going to strike out and be streaky, but 25+ home runs with 10 stolen bases is definitely a fair projection…with some upside.

Being with the crazy, hot chick can be an adventure, but at the end of the day, it’s a ride well worth taking. Or so I’ve heard.

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Stan Son is a featured writer at FantasyPros. To read more from Stan, check out his archive and follow him @Stan_Son.

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