Is Angel Pagan A Viable BJ Upton Fallback Plan?

by Kyle Johansen

Angel Pagan had been tearing it up on free agency all year long, yet I would look at him and think this is Angel Pagan; he is not going to help my fantasy team.  A Mets reject purchased by the Cubs as a reserve outfielder in 2006 and later sent back to the Mets in 2008, Pagan has seemingly been an unwanted 4th or 5th outfielder his entire career. 

What he has going for him is a .285 career batting average, 211 minor league stolen bases and the fact that he will still only be 29-years-old during the 2011 season.   My problem this past season was that I steadfastly believed in BJ Upton and would refuse to put him on the bench.  On the rare occasions that I would bench him, he would obviously decide to show off his power and speed, which would lead to a promotion to the lineup and a prompt 0-5 the next night. 

Upton is a fine fantasy option, and possibly a four category contributor.  After this past year I think we may be closer to figuring out exactly what kind of a player he is.  One thing that is readily apparent, other than his speed, is that BJ Upton is not going to hit for a favorable average any time soon.

BJ Upton

2007

2008

2009

2010

AVG

.300

.273

.241

.237

BABIP

.393

.344

.310

.304

Looking at the numbers, Upton looks be a .250 hitter at best.  In 2010 he traded grounders for fly balls and had his first season with more balls in the air than the on the ground.  This led to his highest ISO (.187) since the breakout 2007 campaign (.209), which at the time was fueled by an unsustainable 19% fly ball rate.  His 2010 FB% bumped up a couple percentage points from 2009 to 11%, which is where we should likely expect it to stay. 

It’s been known for a while that Upton has elite speed and he did not disappoint this past season swiping 42 bags, his third straight year of 40+.  Now that we also seem to have a grasp on his batting average, power is the one real variable that remains in assessing Upton’s value.  The 18 home runs in 536 at bats this year is especially encouraging as it nearly doubled his totals the past two years.  This seems to be a result of completely healing from his previous shoulder injury, combined with his increased fly balls and a normalized HR/FB.  At only 26-years-old, Upton appears to be a 20-25 home run threat in 2011. 

However, despite the 18 home runs and 42 steals this year, BJ Upton still ended the year ranked lower (#71) on ESPN’s Player Rater than Angel Pagan (#37).  After Upton had repeatedly tested my patience throughout the summer with a blitzkrieg of 0-fers (30.6% strikeout rate and .225 July batting average), I relented and picked up Pagan some day after the All Star Break and told Upton to grab some pine.  I had to put up with seeing steals and homers on the bench, but my team was in last place in batting average and Pagan appeared to be an Upton clone, only with the added benefit of being a .300 hitter.

This was not entirely true, as Pagan ended the year with just 11 homers.  However, the .290 batting average is no mirage.  His BABIP was an inflated .331, but this would be typical for a player with his speed and contact skills (16.5 K%).  With regular playing time next year, Pagan should give owners a high batting average and plenty of stolen bases.  As it stands now, Pagan looks to start in right field and most likely hit near the top of the Mets lineup.  His speed is legitimate; originally when he came up in the Mets organization it was said that he was faster than Jose Reyes.  Added at bats means 40+ steals is achievable. 

While Upton trumps Pagan in the power department, Pagan has just as much of an advantage when it comes to batting average.  On draft day Upton simply has too much potential to be passed over for Angel Pagan.  But, if you miss out on Upton in your draft and were counting on his steals, Angel Pagan is a pretty safe option as a second or third outfielder, and one that you can most likely grab late.

What are your thoughts on this comparison?  Do you view Pagan as a viable fallback option?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

4 comments

  1. Josh says:

    I like Drew Stubbs as a fallback to Upton more than Pagan.

  2. ClayHenry says:

    I like Pagan as a better fantasy player PERIOD over BJ Upton.

  3. Kyle Johansen says:

    I think Stubbs power has to be in question. This is a guy who put up a .092 ISO in 411 Triple-A at bats in 2009. I think we’ll continue to see his HR/FB come down, and with less speed than Upton, if he doesn’t match the power and puts up the same .250 avg he’ll still have value, but I don’t think we can assume he’ll become a 20+ HR 40+ SB player like Upton should.

  4. Kyle Johansen says:

    Clay, I agreed with you this past season, Pagan was definitely more valuable to have in your lineup. I just don’t think you need to draft Pagan while Upton is still on the board.

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