By Mike Moritz
Carl Crawford as the other corner stone of the Tampa Bay Rays organization (that is, until the Rays drafted Evan Longoria in 2006). And that was not a bad assumption for Upton, considering his minor league stat line was .297/.393/.457 with some serious speed, stealing 154 bases in 485 minor league games (albeit just a 72% success rate). He had a lot of potential scouts raved about his athletic ability.
As it turns out, Upton, who is other side of the country from his brother Justin Upton (what a gifted family), has struggled after his rookie year that caught a lot of eyes in 2007.
His rookie season(first full season) in 2007 was indeed good. A stat line that was .300/.386/.500/.387, 24 homers and a 11.9 BB rate that added up to a 4.2 WAR. But if I was as into baseball as I am now, I would have seen this coming. Being in my early-double-digits in age at the time, I barely knew the difference between a walk and a hit and could much less tell you that his high strike out rate, sky-high BABIP and really sky-high HR/FB with not overwhelming LD, GB and FB rates is a HUGE red flag.
But as a middle aged, baseball loving teenager, I can tell you now, confidently, that a player who has a 32.5% strike out rate, a .393 BABIP, a 19.8% HR/FB with a 19.6% LD rate, a 42.9% GB rate and a 37.6% FB rate as a rookie has some work to do, to say the least. And that is what B.J. Upton experienced in his rookie campaign. Granted, those LD, FB, and GB rates are just about average, my point about them is that he posted those numbers that I listed before without an amazing foundation. If he had had fantastic LD, FB and GB rates to back everything up, then I probably would not be writing this post today.
His career 28.3% strike out rate and 30.6% mark from 2010 are not good stats to have. His lowest strike out rate was just 25.2%. Generally, in order to have a good batting average with such terrible whiff numbers, you have to be a high-BABIP hitter. So when he had a .393 BABIP in 2007, it was no surprise that there was a 93 point difference between his BABIP and batting average. It was due for a big regression. And it did, down to a still great .344. But that was due for yet another regression and again it regressed, going down to just about an average BABIP, .310. It was just about the same in 2010, .304 BABIP. Sure enough, his average has dropped a huge amount since 2007 and his OBP has dropped as well.
He just strikes out so much and he has not shown any sign of cutting down on them. In fact, his strike out rate went north from June to the end of the season, going from 23.9 to 34% and in May, it was a disgusting 38.2%. Sure, he draws walks, his 11.3% BB rate is great but he still strikes out a lot and that kills a lot of his potential value.
Unless B.J. Upton makes a huge change and shaves off about 8% (or more) off his strike out rate, then this is the B.J. Upton that we will see for a while.
(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)