Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 3/5/13
What’s B.J. Upton‘s normal home run total? Umm, we’ll get back to you on that.In his six mostly full seasons, Upton has hit 24, 9, 11, 18, 23, and 28 homers. His HR/FB rates have been 19.8%, 7.4%, 6.8%, 11.0%, 14.1%, and 16.7%. His fly ball rates used to sit in the 30s, but over the last three years he’s been in the low-40s. But while his power numbers have been inconsistent to say the least, his batting averages have been anything but — they’ve just been consistently bad. Upton’s best average over the last four years was the .246 he posted last season.Of course, with Upton we’re always talking about trade-offs. You can have the power and the speed, but you need to stomach the average. Last year was no different. While he posted a career-best in homers, it came at the expense of his walk rate and OBP. After posting walk rates of 11.0% and 11.1% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, last year it dropped to 7.1%. That rate was the worst of his career, and it was noticeably worse as his 9.1% walk rate in 2011 previously held that title. Generally Upton’s walk rate sits around 11%, so it’ll be interesting to see if a changed approach at the plate last year carries over to a new season in a new home.At a GlanceStrengths: R, SBWeaknesses: HR, RBI, net SB, OBP, SLG, OPSNeutral: BAPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Mike Trout’s (LAA) HR, RBI, SB but with about 30-40 fewer R and a .270 averageLikely scenario: Alex Rios (CHW), Hanley Ramirez (LAD), Jimmy Rollins (PHI)Worst-case scenario: Shane Victorino (BOS)B.J. Upton 2013 Fantasy ProjectionGiven Upton’s erratic career HR/FB rates (and a little bit of guesswork), it seems he’s a 23-28 home run hitter. Last year he used the second best HR/FB rate of his career to power himself to a career-best 28 homers, so we choose to project a small decline in a new environment with a new, big contract.As far as his average goes, it’s probably not going to be anything too great. His xBAs have been in the .270s in each of the last two years thanks to improved line drive rates, but players don’t always perform in real life like our formulas say they should (see: Matt Cain’s ERA). For now it’s best to look at Upton as his usual .240s self, but know that there are scenarios (very plausible scenarios) that could see him post an above average batting average for the first time since batting .273 in 2008.Combined with his speed, that could make Upton one of the great steals of the 2013 draft, and that’s saying something given his current ADP of 56.7.
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