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Fantasy Baseball: The Final Word on Tampa Bay Rays OF BJ Upton

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays connects on a second-inning RBI triple against the New York Yankees on September 22, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
William JohnsonCorrespondent IIIOctober 31, 2011

This article premiered on the Fantasy Athletic Association for Cubicle Dwellers on October 31st, 2011. It is the premiere article of that new, non-profit website dedicated to fantasy baseball. 


The Final Word is dedicated to looking at fantasy athletes that always straddle the fence of draft value and whether they truly are worth the use of a draft pick. Statistical analysis is abused and bias is most likely evident even if I try my damnedest to avoid it. The introductory edition of The Final Word features the most polarizing fantasy baseball figure I know: BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Initial Thoughts

The twenty-six year old outfielder certainly, without doubt, has lived up to three of the five tools scouts and managers so desire. BJ's speed is evident most clearly as he's earned the reputation with fantasy managers and real-life MLB managers for his ability to steal bases.

His fielding, at least the mechanics of it, has never been in question. His arm is immense and coupled with his speed he is a dream center fielder, containing a powerful arm that can reach home from far, far away and he can virtually chase down any fly ball on either end of the park.

Sadly, his arm and his speed in the field doesn't exactly help fantasy owners. So if you were drafting him to be on your MLB team, his abilities in the field alone, plus his ability to avoid injuries, would make him a clear choice. The rest could come later. Anything can be coached.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays strikes out in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at the O.co Coliseum on July 26, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

But in the fantasy world, BJ's value is always in debate. BJ has shown he can hit long balls and he has the proven speed to stretch uncertain singles into doubles and so on, but he hasn't shown, so it seems, the ability to do it consistently.

In the end, the great debate on BJ Upton is what you have to stomach and what you gain for that patience and possible detriment. As stated above, many of Upton's qualities don't translate to fantasy scorecards and, thankfully, so don't some of his over hyped negatives (such as effort and a lack of emotional control).

But the attraction to Upton, using the eye test, and even, in some cases, a year by year stat-study (at least on the surface, leads to him being drafted a majority of the time. He looks and feels like a superstar. . .but he hasn't often shown in or, at the very least, hasn't shown it for extended periods of time.

And some of you will say: what about the playoffs in 2008. Once again, as we'll see later, two things come into play: 1)playoffs don't usually come into play in fantasy leagues and 2)BJ has a Jekyll and Hyde personality when it comes to the regular season and the postseason.

His Best Season

BJ played his first full season, at the age of 22, in 2007 and everything that was expected of him seem to come true. Here was his statistical line:

.300 AVG, .386 OBP, .508 Slug, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 50 XBH, 
22 SB, 4.7 WARP

NEW YORK - JULY 20:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays sends the ball into the left field upper deck in the third inning for a two-run home run against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium July 20, 2007 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (P
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Since 2007 he has never had a better batting average, on-base %, slugging %, RBI, or WARP. He has increased his stolen base output considerably and his home run rate has been, if not up and down, then bouncing back and forth between 2007 numbers or below, but never above.

The great part about BJ's breakout season being his first is we get to see trends develop easier. It's easy to see what BJ is consistent with, from a yearly perspective, and what he is sorely lacking in, if anything.

Yearly Trends

From a fantasy perspective, consistency is key. And when you break down Upton from a yearly perspective, it is actually pretty surprising, despite his reputation, that Upton is very consistent and steady. He may not necessary be getting better but he is certainly approaching his best. Considering his best statistical year was, at least at face value, a good fantasy year, Upton may yet be a solid draft choice.

All stats shown since 2007: 

+ Increasing Doubles (25 in '07): 373338, 27

+ Increasing/Steady Triples (1): 2444

+ Increasing/Steady SB totals (22): 44424236

+ Increasing/Steady Runs (86): 85, 7989, 82

+/- Steady Total XBH totals (50): 48, 48, 6054

+/- Steady SB % (73%): 73%, 75%82%75%

+/- Steady Runs (86): 85, 79, 89, 82

Unsure: Steady OBP (.386): .383, .313, .322, .331

- Increased HR/AB (19.8): 5950.929.824.3

- Fluctuating Walks (65): 97, 57, 67, 71

- Fluctuating RBIs (82): 67556281

- Fluctuating HRs (24): 9111823

- Steady Ks (154): 134, 152, 164161

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on before his game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 26, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

- Steady K-BB ratio (2.3 SO per walk): 1.3, 2.62.4, 2.2

- Decreasing AVG (.300): .273, .241, .237, .243

Based on trends, BJ's power seems to be in flux. He has been getting better with the 2B/3B but his home runs are all over the place. He WILL always strike out and whether he does it with a lot of walks or not depends on the season, as trends show. The batting average has been an issue and BJ has been all over the lineup cards since 2007 due to a lack of consistency. 

As expected as his K totals will be, BJ also is guaranteed to bring SB (but it comes with a roughly 25% CS rate per season), score runs, and hit doubles.

To me, BJ is a good pick for the heavy-stats leagues as BJ stuffs many lesser stats but his inability to be predictable with major categories like AVG, HRs, RBIs, Walks, and his constant detriments with Ks and even, at times, caught stealing, BJ seems to be nothing to take a risk on.

Anatomy of a Season

If you looks at BJ Upton's 2011 stats for the entire season, you feel you'd retroactively draft him. Here is the statistical line for Upton during the regular season (bold indicates excellent stats for fantasy):

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 25:  B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 25, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

.243, 136 total Hits: 82 1B27 2B4 3B23 HR82 Runs36 SB, 12 CS, 161 SO, 71 BB

Based on the yearly statistics, in hindsight, Upton would be a taker for singles, triples, home runs, slugging %, stolen bases, walks, and runs.

You could take or leave his doubles and his on-base percentage.

And you'd avoid him for Ks, caught stealing, and batting average.

We'll use a number code for this for further analysis, showing number of positives, number of take it/leave its, and number of losses. In this case, BJ's year total (and some leagues might do point totals and accumulation), was an excellent 6-1-3.

But for those in weekly leagues, how does BJ break down? I've chosen three random months and examined them giving the same ratings per week as above. The results are below:

April 2011

--Week 1 (April 1st - April 8th): 9 total hits: 7 singles, 2 doubles, 0 triples, 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 1 SB, 2 CS, 5 Runs, .360 average: Fantastic (7-2-3)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 1:  Outfielder B. J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays follows a fly ball against the Texas Rangers June 1, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

--Week 2 (April 9th-April 16th): 3 total hits: 2 singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 8 Ks, 1 SB, 0 CS, 4 Runs, .125 average: Bad (3-1-7)

--Week 3 (April 17th - April 23rd): 4 total hits: 4 singles, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, 3 BBs, 9 Ks, 3 SB, 0 CS, 1 Run, .190 average: Bad (3-1-6)

--Week 4 (April 24th - April 30th): six total hits: 5 singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 1 SB, 0 CS, 4 Runs, .260 average: Fantastic (7-2-2)

June 2011
--Week 1 (June 1st - June 7th): 3 total hits: 2 singles, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 0 SB, 1 CS, 2 Runs, .142 average: Atrocious (0-1-10)

--Week 2 (June 8th - June 15th): 3 total hits: 2 singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 2 SB, 0 CS, 1 Run, .107 average: Terrible (2-0-9)

--Week 3 (June 16th - June 22nd): 7 total hits: six singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 0 HRs, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 5 SB, 0 CS, 3 Runs, .269 average: Fine (4-2-5)

--Week 4 (June 24th - June 29th): 6 total hits: 2 singles, 0 doubles, 0 triples, 4 HRs, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 1 SB, 0 CS, 5 Runs, .272 average: Good (5-2-4)

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 30: B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays dives back to first base against  the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on August 30, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

August 2011

--Week 1 (August 2nd - August 8th): 9 total hits: 6 singles, 1 double, 2 triples, 0 HRs, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 0 SB, 0 CS, 3 Runs, .321 average: Good (4-4-3)

--Week 2 (August 9th - August 16th): 4 total hits: 3 singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 1 SB, 0 CS, 3 Runs, .181 average: Terrible (2-1-8)

--Week 3 (August 17th - August 24th): 3 total hits: 1 single, 1 double, 0 triples, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 9 Ks, 2 SB, 0 CS, 3 Runs, .150 average: Bad (3-1-7)

--Week 4 (August 25th - August 30th): 4 total hits: 2 singles, 1 double, 0 triples, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 6 Ks, 1 SB, 2 CS, 3 Runs, .200: Terrible (2-2-7)

The Final Word

Keep in mind, this isn't scientific, this is just what I see and what I looked at. If you're betting money on what I say, you have more then just gambling problems. But I feel my below analysis is solid. Observe the ratings, from A to F.

Eye Test: B- Stereotypes and reputations come from some sort of truth. But BJ's reputation for not producing to his potential, as shown in 2007, is pretty on the mark. The eye test is both seductive but also misleading.

Potential: A-We've seen it in 2007, we see it in some games and during some weeks and we've seen it in the playoffs. He has the ability and his genetic code has rubbed off on his brother, who is surpassing (if he was even behind BJ) as the dominant Upton Brother. But BJ is going to be 27 in 2012. He has time.

Trends: C-Just looking at BJ from a fantasy perspective, his trending poorly in all the areas he can't be and is only increasing his abilities in the near to full luxury categories.

2011: Full Year: B Weekly: D+

Final Word: If he's available towards the end, draft him for niche categories and put him on the bench. If you're looking for a full time starter, his numbers usually add up at the end of the year but his weekly lack of consistency will kill you.

*all stats gathered with help from Yahoo Sports, ESPN, and Baseball Prospectus.

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