The Diamondbacks appear dead set on trading their best player, Justin Upton, this offseason. Upton has been the subject of trade rumors in each of the last two seasons. The reasons for their want to deal him vary from bad attitude to not wanting to make requested changes from the coaching staff. Throw in the bad shoulder, and GM Kevin Towers is doing his best to deal him once again. Report surfaced again yesterday that the team is again open to dealing Upton, with the Mariners, Rangers and the Braves, surprise surprise, have shown interest. All of these trade rumors, along with a disappointing 2012 season, have deflated his value for fantasy owners.
I am here to tell you to disregard the noise. Buy the skills and talent, and if he drops to you in the 4rd or 5th round of mixed leagues drafts in 2013, you pounce. Here is why.
By now, everyone knows that Upton underperformed his draft round/auction value in 2012, but his season wasn't really THAT bad. After his 2011 season, where he hit .289-.369-.529 with 31 HRs, 105 runs, 88 RBI and 21 stolen bases, most people, including me, felt that he could improve upon that terrific season. So, when comparing his 2012 season to his 2011 season, yes, he underperformed. He hit .280-.355-.430 with 17 HRs, 107 runs, 67 RBI and 18 stolen bases last season.
Did you know that he was one of only 22 players who hit 15 home runs and stole 15 bases last season? His runs scored tied for fourth in all of MLB last season. Fourth! Granted his RBI total was underwhelming, but he didn't exactly hurt you in the batting average category, so he did provide owners with some value last season.
He also appears to be the outfielder version of Prince Fielder. Fielder is well know for alternating good years with down years, and Upton seems to be following the same trend. And 2013 "should" be his good year. Here is a look:
2009: .300-.366-.532, 26 HRs, .232 ISO (GOOD)
2010: .273-.356-.442, 17 HRs, .170 ISO (DOWN)
2011: .289-.369-.529, 31 HRs, .240 ISO (GOOD)
2012: .280-.355-.430. 17 HRs, .150 ISO (DOWN)
See the trend. Don't let his down year and offseason trade rumors affect the way you value him for 2013. He is still the same player we all wanted to draft last season, he is just coming off a down year. Fantasy owners should relish opportunities like this when a player's value drops due to a bad year.
One of the reasons for the drop in power was the nagging shoulder injury which he played through. As a result, he hit more ground balls than fly balls and his home run per fly ball rate dropped from 14.8% to 11.0% last season. But there are a few positive signals to take away from his 2012 season. His walk rate increased from 8.8% to 10.0%, he had less out of zone swings (26.7% vs 30.3%), made more contact (77.1% vs 74.5%), and his swing and miss rate (10.0%) was the lowest of his career.
Getting back to those trade rumors. If he is traded away from Chase Field, a hitter's haven, his value may drop some more. But that may just be what he needs to reach his potential. I am a buyer of Justin Upton in 2013. And you should too.