Jul 25, 2011, 2:59 PM EST
B.J Upton as the final piece to add to a contending team is a rather odd notion. Obviously, Carlos Beltran has run circles around Upton offensively this year, and lesser lights like Josh Willingham, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera have also been superior hitters. Just look at Upton’s batting averages the last few years:
How is a .230-.240 hitter a difference maker?
Upton, though, is such a tough player to judge. He’s terribly inconsistent, but his batting average doesn’t come close to approximating his value. Upton is an above average defensive center fielder and a quality basestealer with 20- or 25-homer power and a strong walk rate.
Even though his averages and power numbers have been all over the map, WAR actually rates him as being fairly consistent in his five years as the Rays’ primary center fielder.
2007: 4.7 WAR
2011: 2.2 — on pace for 3.6
There’s a couple of important things to remember here. One is that Tropicana Field plays as a strong pitchers’ park. The other is that offense has collapsed throughout the league. Upton’s .706 OPS is barely below the AL average of .718, and it’s actually slightly above average after adjusting for The Trop.
Since 2007, Upton rates fifth among major league center fielders (>50 percent of games) in WAR.
1. Carlos Beltran: 22.0
2. Curtis Granderson: 20.5
3. Matt Kemp: 18.3
4. Josh Hamilton: 17.9
5. B.J. Upton: 16.7
6. Shane Victorino: 14.8
7. Grady Sizemore: 14.6
8. Marlon Byrd: 13.4
9. Torii Hunter: 13.4
10. Andrew McCutchen: 12.0 (since 2009)
Upton is still just 26. He’s under control for next year and he shouldn’t cost more than $7 million, so he has considerable trade value.
And after saying all that, I still don’t think he’s the final piece for a contender. I’m not dismissing him. He almost singlehandedly took down the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS, hitting .321 with four homers and 11 RBI as the Rays won the series in seven games. He has seven homers and 18 RBI in 21 postseason games, so everyone knows what he can do when he’s hot.
Upton is more like a lottery ticket. A team needing to gamble should pick him up and hope he goes off. For that reason, I think he makes more sense in Cleveland and Pittsburgh than anywhere else.
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition 148
- Nationals sign former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen 10
- Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Marlins is worth $2 million 33
- Orioles acquire outfielder Travis Snider from Pirates 36
- Not so fast on the Bud Selig Hall of Fame talk 50
- Blue Jays sign president and CEO Paul Beeston to extension through 2015 26
- Reds sign four-year contract extension with Devin Mesoraco 11
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives 83
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition (148)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball (94)
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives (83)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)