The Upton family reunion will not only take place in Atlanta, but will have cameo appearances in National League cities all over the country between April and September this year, and for the foreseeable future. The Braves helped the Diamondbacks out with their outfield logjam and acquired Justin Upton.
For a comprehensive look on how Upton will fit into the Braves lineup, I’ll point you to Clave’s team preview. But right now, let’s ask ourselves what this move will do for Upton’s value.
It’s not that the Diamondbacks were bad, just a little inconsistent and not always on the field. Besides Upton, the only Arizona player who was on the field for 150 or more games in 2012 was Aaron Hill. Even when they were all dressed, the talent around him was shaky.
Paul Goldschmidt has a bright future and finished the year with good numbers, but spent much of 2012 finding his rhythm as a hitter. Jason Kubel can mash the ball with anyone, but with a .253 average 151 strikeouts, opposing pitchers knew that he could be pitched to. Miguel Montero is a good player, but not feared, so he wasn’t getting Upton any great pitches to hit.
Upton himself had a bad year in 2012, but his batting average was only slightly worse, going from .289 to .280. The power numbers took a hit, but you can attribute that to pitchers just not giving him pitches that he can launch. I have the yet to be published Diamondbacks preview and I think that would have changed in Arizona this year, as I think both Upton and his teammates would be better. But in Atlanta, he’s looking at a pretty good batch.
Clave has him batting third, right between Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, giving the Braves a good R-L-R-L dynamic, with B.J. Upton leading off. The Atlanta lineup is also deeper than the Arizona lineup, so if Heyward and Freeman fail to produce, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann (when he returns) could step into Upton’s protection spots.
With Upton, you have to realize that he’s probably not a .300 hitter, even though he is young and could develop. But you’re probably pretty solid in the .280 – .290 range, and the rest of the numbers should be aided by better overall surroundings.
Balls don’t fly out of Turner Field like they do at Chase Field, but he won’t suffer. According to Baseball-Reference, it ranked over 100 in both pitching and hitting in 2012, and in it’s existence, which means it’s considered a hitter’s park. It’s funny, I don’t think of Turner Field as a hitting park, but I also can’t say that it’s really hurt any hitters over the years. Over the years, Upton is a .293 hitter at his new home park and a .278 career hitter.
So, if there’s any drop here, it’s not a big one. Especially when you compare it to this.
Staying in the National League, Upton’s not going anywhere he’s not used to. But with baseball’s unbalanced schedule, he’s going to see more of the NL East than the NL West. Take a look at his 2012 numbers against his divisional opponents, both old and new.
- San Francisco Giants (18 games): 8 runs, 2 homers, 6 RBI, 0 steals, .221 average
- Los Angeles Dodgers (18 games): 12 runs, 2 homers, 12 RBI, 1 steal, .271 average
- San Diego Padres (16 games): 11 runs, 2 homers, 3 RBI, 1 steal, .283 average
- Colorado Rockies (16 games): 18 runs, 1 homer, 2 RBI, 5 steals, .259 average
- Washington Nationals (6 games): 6 runs, 1 homer, 4 RBI, 2 steals, .286 average
- Philadelphia Phillies (6 games): 6 runs, 2 homers, 4 RBI, 0 steals, .455 average
- New York Mets (6 games): 5 runs, 0 homers, 3 RBI, 0 steals, .250 average
- Miami Marlins (6 games): 6 runs, 1 homer, 4 RBI, 2 steals, .333 average
The counted stats should be way more slanted towards the west, given the extra games played against those teams. The averages are pretty telling. Now, the NL East has some great pitchers (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, etc.), but Upton seemed to handle that well enough. Being away from Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and the NL West would seem to do Justin Upton some good.
Upton’s 2013 fantasy value just got a big of an upgrade. Again, independent of his surroundings, you can look for him to improve this year. He wasn’t that terrible in 2012 and I just can’t see him failing to crack 20 homers again. Throw in his new surroundings, and his numbers should be closer to 2011 than 2012. That’s an elite fantasy player.