Can B.J. Upton Rebound In 2014?
B.J. Upton’s season last year was a disaster. He tied or beat career lows in runs, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases and batting average for seasons in which he had over 200 at bats at the major league level. That is every one of your basic scoring categories in a 5x5 league. Ouch. His performance was so bad that the Braves ended up benching him for the Division Series in the same year that they'd signed him to a five-year, $75.25 million contract that brought his talents to Atlanta.
Why do I have him as a sleeper for fantasy baseball this year? Because the chances of him repeating that horrible of a season are slim. B.J. has played over 1,000 games at the major league level and tallied close to 4,000 at bats in nine seasons. His average stats per season tell a completely different story from what he did in 2o13. Below is a comparison of Upton’s 2013 with his career averages (including last season and two seasons with fewer than 175 at bats).
2013 Stats: 30 R, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 12 SB, .184 AVG
Career Averages: 63 R, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 27 SB, .248 AVG
Upton averages double the amount of R, RBI and SB per season in his career versus what he put up last season (to go along with a whopping .064 more points in batting average). His OPS was even more lopsided-- Upton's 2013 OPS was a full .181 points below his career average of .738.
As he ages, his SB will naturally start to decline, but his career numbers clearly prove that he knows how hit, drive in runs and score.
The Good Side
The good side of this is that the Braves are pretty committed to Upton for the future because of his contract. This also means that B.J. will get regular at bats at the beginning of the season to give him every opportunity to succeed. Additionally, he is CHEAP this year in the fantasy game. Upton’s draft stock has plummeted since last season, and so he is either going later in snake drafts or cheaper in auctions. If he even comes close to returning to his career form, he will be a steal late in any draft.
At his best, Upton can be a 20/30 guy with a decent batting average.
The Bad Side
The bad side is that B.J. has pretty much ruined any chance of hitting near the top of the order, at least at the beginning of the season. If he were to bounce back this year, you might start to see him creep towards the middle, with the occasional game hitting leadoff or second, but until he improves fro an extended period, expect him to still be at the bottom.
With not much confidence from the coaching staff at the beginning of the season, you can also expect Upton to sit some games and lose at bats. If he continues to hit like he did last season, expect him to be replaced this season again.
Is Upton A Sleeper?
Overall, B.J. Upton has shown he can hit in the majors. He isn’t a guy coming off a terrible rookie season or sophomore slump. He has nine years of playing experience at the highest level, and like most (I reiterate most) professional hitters with that amount of experience, hard work and patience yield better results.
ESPN has Upton’s ADP position at 186th. I wouldn’t take him before that (the number of teams in your league will determine which round that is), but he is probably worth the risk if he slips much later in your draft. At such a low draft cost, he could pay off as a potential fantasy baseball sleeper if he puts up numbers closer to his career averages in 2014.