2010 Projection: B.J. Upton

It was just two seasons ago that B.J. Upton posted a 24 HR, 22 SB season sending fantasy owners into a frenzy, thinking the next great outfielder had emerged.  Since then, while the speed has proven to be real (86 SB the past two seasons), the power is nowhere to be found with just 20 home runs total.  Is there any hope that he can get reasonably close to his 2007 campaign?

First, let’s take a look at the numbers he did post in 2009:

560 At Bats
.241 Batting Average (135 Hits)
11 Home Runs
55 RBI
79 Runs
42 Stolen Bases
.313 On Base Percentage
.373 Slugging Percentage
.312 Batting Average on Balls in Play

We’ll get to the power in a minute, but it is far from the only question surrounding Upton.  The average is terrible, but it comes courtesy of a realistic BABIP.  The problem is the strikeouts, whiffing 27.1% last season.  That’s not a new problem, however.  Just look at his marks the two previous seasons:

  • 2007 – 32.5%
  • 2008 – 25.2%

While he did hit .300 in 2007, it came thanks to a BABIP of .399, something that is nearly impossible to replicate.  While he has the speed to support a mark that is above average, that is just too much to ask for from anyone (you can almost say the same thing about his 2008 mark of .351).

It is possible to see him hit to a better average in 2010, but given the strikeout problems he’s consistently shown the past few seasons it is hard to imagine.  A best-case scenario seems to put him at usable, but that’s about it.

Now, onto the biggest question, his power potential.  His 2007 power surge came courtesy of a 37.6% flyball rate and 19.8% HR/FB.  The latter is a number that he hasn’t even come close to the last two seasons:

  • 2008 – 7.4%
  • 2009 – 6.8%

While he exploded for seven home runs in the 2008 playoffs, again giving people hope, you have to look at what he’s done the past two seasons and realize that repeating 24 HR may be a long shot.  He did get his flyball percentage back up last season, at 40.3% (it fell to 30.6% in 2008), so there is hope that he can consistently reach double-digits.

Of course, there is a double edged sword there, as with his speed you would almost rather him drive the ball into the ground and try to beat them out.  When the ball is in the air, the likelihood of it falling in diminishes.

He has more power than Ichiro Suzuki, but look at his career 23.9% flyball rate as a marker.  If Upton were consistently posting marks like that, maybe I would believe in him maintaining an above average BABIP.

With all that said, let’s now take a look at my preliminary projection for 2010:

.262 (144-550), 14 HR, 50 RBI, 85 R, 40 SB, .331 BABIP, .351 OBP, .416 SLG

Basically, I’m expecting him to drop the flyball rate slightly, which will allow him to use his speed more and provide an average that is much more palatable.  I’m also expecting his power to improve slightly, at age 25 (he’ll turn 26 in August), which is where the extra home runs come from.

While I’d love to place him with more runs scored, he’s posted totals of 86, 85 and 79 the past three seasons.  It’s tough to project him for much more, especially given his OBP.

What are your thoughts on Upton?  Do you see him outperforming these projections?  Under performing them?

Make sure to check out some more of our early 2010 projections, including:

One comment

  1. Todd Falker says:

    What about BJ’s injury? He missed he early part of last year, decreasing his quantity categories. Yes the average and strikeouts don’t do, but its a player coming into his prime (age at least) that has always been projected for huge upside.
    The question then becomes is there any reason to believe he recovers from injury and reaches his potential. I think Crawford’s off-seasons habits and return last year will leave an impression on BJ this offseason – getting him into shape. As far as reaching potential, seems to me like its a matter of time – BJ’s going to have a 20-50 season and people are going to be sorry.
    I’m just trying to decide if I’m willing to keeper-status him for another whole year waiting for that to happen (and am sorry I traded Howard for him two years ago)

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