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Justin Upton: 2012 Disappointment

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We heard a few days ago that the Diamondbacks are listening to offers for outfielder Justin Upton for the second time since Kevin Towers took over the GM job in Arizona. The tipping point may have come last week when Upton reacted to the Diamondbacks fans booing him by saying he doesn't care. There must be some other clubhouse or off field issues we haven't heard about that is pushing Towers to put him on the trade block, but his performance at the plate sure isn't helping matters.

After a solid 2011 season where he hit .289-.369-.529 with 31 home runs, 105 runs scored, 88 RBI and 21 stolen bases, I ranked him as my third ranked outfielder before the season, right behind Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun. Upton has followed his 2011 season with a dud of a 2012 season hitting .273-.353-.401 with just 7 home runs, 54 runs scored, 37 RBI and 7 stolen bases.

Upton has improved his walk rate from 8.8% to 10.0% this season, but is striking out a bit more this season than last. More importantly, his power has fallen off a cliff, and one has to wonder if his shoulder is the reason. He has missed time over the last few years, if my memory serves me correctly, due to shoulder issues. He missed time in 2008 with a strained left oblique, and in 2009 to a strained right oblique, so he is no stranger to injuries that sap his power.

As I was checking Twitter in the middle of writing this piece, here is ESPN's Buster Olney with this little nugget:

J.Upton is just 24 years old w/98 career HRs, 2xAll-Star. There is concern among rival teams about whether he's got chronic shoulder issue.

So there you go. I am not the only one wondering if the shoulder is cause for concern.

He is on pace to hit just 14 HRs this season, his SLG is down from .529 to .401, and his ISO has been cut in half from .240 to .128. To put his ISO in perspective, guys like Casey Kotchman, Michael Bourn and Justin Smoak all have a higher ISO than Upton this season.

His batted ball data over on FanGraphs shows that he is hitting more line drives and ground balls than he has at any point in his career, and his fly ball rate is the lowest of his career. I wonder if the shoulder is limiting his ability to get more loft on his batted balls, resulting in more line drives (which is good), but also more ground balls. Ground balls and line drives rarely end up over the fence, so it is no surprise his home run totals are down after looking at his reduced fly ball rate.

So the real question is, can Upton bounce back and have a strong second half? He certainly has the talent. There is no argument there. And he plays in the hitter friendly ballpark formerly known as The BOB. His career first half/second half splits don't tell us much, as he has been a pretty steady performer over his career, so we must wonder if he can get over the presumed shoulder injury. Maybe the All Star break provides the much needed rest he needs to get back on track at the plate.

I think he will have a strong second half, as the last time there were trade rumors involving Upton, before the 2011 season, he went on to have the best season of his career. Maybe Towers is seeing if lightning strikes twice for him by throwing his name out there again. It could serve as a motivational tool to get him going.

What do Fake Teamers think?