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Justin Upton, abandon ship?

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So the popular Upton just went to the dreaded Petco Park, what does that do to his value?

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Upton was traded to San Diego, to meet up with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers,  and Derek Norris to try and rejuvenate the Padres, but should we buy in?

These are Justin Upton's home runs, as you can tell, most of them are long.  He averaged 409.6 ft of True Distance per home run last season.  All but one of his home runs had little to no assistance, one homer was pushed 32 extra feet by wind.  Last season Justin Upton also jumped his average home run and fly ball distance from the 285+ft to 299ft, a top 20 distance.

If Upton can continue to launch balls like he did last year, his power will be beyond what any park factor can impact.  He's also managed to play 149+ games every season since 2011, so he is extremely reliable as an on the field presence.  Reliable power will always be valuable, so Justin Upton is still an earlypick going forward.

So what should we expect?  Well it seems that everyone knows that last season the Padres scored the fewest runs in the MLB last season with 535.  But what goes unnoticed is that the Braves were second to last with 573 runs.  So while the Braves have cleaned house and look primed to take over the bottom spot, the Padres project to move towards the middle of the pack.   This is something that could have an interesting impact on Upton's stats.  But first I'll show you what I believe the lineup around him will look like.

SS Amarista

2B Gyorko

LF Upton

CF Kemp

RF Myers

3B Middlebrooks

1B Alonso

C Norris

Last season Upton had Jason Heyward, who had a very poor season by his standards, behind him, and typically had his brother BJ, complete dud, and Freddie Freeman, complete stud, hitting before him.  That doesn't lead to a whole lot of production around him, but he still managed to get 102RBI last season, and 77R.

It seems that he's changed his approach and started to become a more aggressive swinger in the past two seasons.  His strikeouts have jumped up to 25%, and his BB% have dropped to under 10%.  What also supports this approach change is that he has bumped his swing percentage up to a career high 49.1% with a career high swing rate at both strikes and balls.  Regardless of the fact that his contact numbers haven't improved with his new approach, he's driving the ball further now that he's more focused on hitting the ball, as opposed to waiting for his pitch.  I believe the lineup would be better with Kemp hitting second, but with this current and probably more likely setup Upton is primed to have another typical Upton year.  So here is my projection:

  • 90+ R scored, Upton is actually a very good base runner, and with the hitters behind him, he should be ready to score frequently again next season.
  • 80+ RBI, Upton drives the ball well, and if he managed to get 100RBI with BJ Upton and Freddie Freeman in front of him, he can get 80 with Gyorko and Amarista.
  • 25+ HR, this may actually go up as Atlanta was also punishing righties last year just as Petco did, but Atlanta had better power hitting righties to buoy their RH home run factor. Take a look at each of the teams park factors in their divisions last season.

Rockies

115

Phillies

106

Diamondbacks

105

Mets

104

Dodgers

100

Nationals

100

Giants

88

Marlins

91

Away Total

408

Away Total

401

Padres

91

Braves

97

Total

499

Total

498

So the NL West is definitely a better place to hit on the road for the Padres, compared to what the Braves faced in the NL East.  I can see these teams home parks getting closer after this trade, and the other moves both teams have made and are expected to make as this offseason continues.

  • 8SB, he has stolen 8 the past two seasons, he's 27 this season, no reason for him to speed up or slow down at this point unless there is a serious change in team philosophy, and these teams ranked 16th and 17th in SB last season.
  • 274 AVG, that's his career average, and since he's begun hitting 20+% LDs over the past 3 seasons, I expect him to continue to get his fair share of knocks.

I typically have a monstrous outfield on my fantasy teams, and Upton seems like a great OF2 to take in the 4th round if he makes it that far.  The only reason I would say you can't trust him as your OF1 is that he has become known for his historic hot and cold streaks, and unless SD can find the solution to that problem, I believe he'll continue to dominate for you some weeks, and sink you in others.  He did have 2 whole months of hitting over 319, and two months of hitting below 226.  So let this one time first overall pick guide you to the championship this year.