The more and more I see of Justin Upton, I realize that he is a very special player. His ability to hit at Petco Park is amazing. He is currently hitting .313 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 62 games and 224 at bats in his home ball park. Those are astounding numbers from Upton in a ball park that is traditionally weak for San Diego Padres hitters.
Still despite those amazing numbers, I really cannot get over the fact he strikes out way too much. He just plain and simply gives away at bats from time to time. 138 times Upton has struck out this season in his 469 at bats. That’s a strike out every third at bat. I know he is a slugger, but come on…. 138 K’s is ridiculous.
Allow me to go on a bit of a rant about modern ball players. Back in the olden days, say 30 years or more striking out 100 times in a season was frowned upon heavily by the baseball community. Now I don’t know when or why things changed, but it is now common place to just accept sluggers K-ing 100 plus times a season. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are considered the best players in the game right now. Each will easily surpass 120 strike outs this season. So perhaps I’m being too harsh on Justin Upton. Still the game has changed.
Hank Aaron had one of the most impressive careers in the game of baseball. His home run total is widely regarded as the record. In Aaron’s 23 year career he never struck out more than 97 times in a season. That magical number of 100 was viewed as embarrassing by ball players. Nobody wanted to have 100 strike outs in a season. The year Aaron struck out 97 times (1967), he also hit .307 with 39 homers and 109 RBI’s. Look at it this way, Aaron struck out 1,383 times in his major league career. Justin Upton has struck out 1,162 times in his career. Pretty close numbers except Aaron did that in 12,364 at bats and Upton has 4,252 career at bats. I know, I know. It’s a different game now. Pitcher are better, bullpens are used more, ext…
The strike outs could be overlooked when evaluating Upton if he put up huge numbers, but in all reality, his numbers are good not great. The three-time All-Star has a career batting line of .273/.353/.475. Nice numbers, but are they worthy of a $100 million plus contract? Looking in-depth at his numbers, Upton has only hit .300 once (2009), driven in 100 runs once (2014) and hit over 30 homers once (2011). For that kind of financial commitment, the Padres would need more. Is he capable of getting better offensively? He has stolen 18 bases this year and is only three away from his personal best. Upton has a rare combination of power and speed.
So we know he strikes out too much. He has good offensive numbers, but they are not excellent. Defensively Upton is considered average at best. He has the ability to be slightly above average, but quite frankly his defense and his arm strength is Upton’s weakest tool. He will not kill you defensively but at the same time he will not be the difference for you in left field. His defense WAR numbers have been a negative rating except for this year (0.3) and 2011 (0.2). The numbers just don’t lie about his defensive ability.
Justin Upton has a 4.2 WAR rating this year and that is well above his 9-year average of 2.8. He is having an above average year this year for the Padres. That is clear. He is capable of getting better but that all depends on if he cuts down on his strike out numbers and puts the ball in play. Strikeouts are demoralizing to the team and the fans, especially from a number 3 or 4 hitter.
Justin Upton will command and most likely get a contract in the excess of $20 million per season. He will sign a deal for at least six or seven seasons. That would put him at the age of 34 or 35 when the deal ends. Traditionally expensive deals like this go sour once the player hits his 30’s. If the Padres sign him long-term, the deal could get bad fairly quickly.
He swings with such authority and gusto, but that same aggressive approach limits his abilities. The team is log jammed with the same prototypical right handed power hitters. Jedd Gyorko, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, Rymer Liriano, Tommy Medica, Melvin Upton Jr. and even Will Middlebrooks. There are just too many factors against resigning Upton and in my estimation the Padres know that. Unless the team can rid themselves of Matt Kemp and Upton Jr’s, there is no reason why they would consider signing Upton.
I know a lot of you have your heart set on retaining his services, but I just don’t think it would be wise. To have Kemp, Upton and Myers in the outfield next season limits the Padres young talent. Renfroe, Liriano, Michael Gettys, Nick Torres, and Yeison Asencio are all in the minors and all are coincidently right handed as well. I mean the writing is on the wall. The team cannot afford to invest over $100 million dollars into Justin Upton.
It really has nothing to do with his abilities. He is worth the money and will get it somewhere, but the way the Padres are structured, it would be a bonehead move. I trust this management too much to think they would cripple the team long-term. There are many different ways this franchise could go. I hesitate to say that the team will not retain Justin Upton, only in the fact that A.J. Preller has already shown he is capable of anything. However for Upton to stay long-term, the team must get really creative.