by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Being a Justin Upton owner is awfully frustrating right now, isn’t it? Considered one of the best players on the game, it’s not that he’s not producing, because he is. The problem is, when can we expect the next miserable cold stretch?
Overall he’s hitting .282 with 11 HR, 22 RBI, 24 R and 4 SB. On the surface the numbers are promising, but it’s when we start to dig a little bit deeper that the red flags fly.
First, just look at the strikeout rate trend over the past three seasons:
- 2012 – 19.3%
- 2013 – 25.0%
- 2014 – 30.2%
Prior to 2011 he was routinely posting marks north of 23% (including 26.6% in 2010), so the increase is not unbelievable. This season it’s been consistent, with a 31.4% mark in April and 28.4% in May. While he started off slow with the strikeouts last season, he ultimately got it in check (no month over 25.2% after May). Still, it was never this bad and the fact that he’s struck out this much for this long has got to be a major concern.
Part of the problem is that he’s simply swinging and missing more often. This season he owns a 14.6% SwStr%, well above the league average of 9.3%.
While the average looks palatable now, couple the strikeout rate with a .356 BABIP (based on a 17.3% line drive rate) and how long can it last?
The other concern is the power, as he currently owns a 25.0% HR/FB. While he was at 17.9% last season, his career mark is just 14.9%. He does have a split between home and road (32.0%/15.2%), which is worth noting though he didn’t benefit from a similar split in 2013 (18.3%/17.5%).
If fewer balls start to find their way over the fence, something that is not impossible, the average potential looks that much worse.
Maybe he’s swinging for the fences a bit, given a 44.9% fly ball rate (35.6% and 37.8% the previous two seasons) and that’s something to watch. The bottom line is Upton’s season could quickly go the other way, so fantasy owners need to be prepared.
I’m not about to say that Upton is a must sell by any stretch. That said, I’m certainly not in a rush to buy nor am I opposed to parting ways with him if the deal is right. There is no questioning the ability, but there also is a lot of risk. If you can flip him for a similar superstar, and one that is a little bit safer, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Source – Fangraphs