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Justin Upton vs. Andrew McCutchen. Who Would You Rather Have?

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Both outfielders are having their worst seasons, and their owners have suffered enough. They are already failed draft choices, but who has a better chance to salvage his value?

Your worst nightmare is here.
Your worst nightmare is here.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Caution. For some of you, this topic could make you very upset. If you have either one of them on your roster, I'm sure you are not too happy to hear their names (for those small number of you who owns both, my condolences).

2015 Fantasy Production

Rank

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

McCutchen

31st

91

23

96

11

.292

Upton

63rd

85

26

81

19

.251

Both have long track records of excellent offensive productions, and they have played at elite levels up until last year. Both are still in their twenties, and their power/speed tools were widely coveted commodities coming into this season.

2016 Fantasy Production

Rank

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

McCutchen

229th

57

15

43

3

.241

Upton

245th

50

13

46

7

.239

I'm not sure if they are buddies in their real lives, but they do look alike in our Fantasy world. We already have played more than two third of the season, and these numbers are no longer just early season slumps. Their skills have faded due to the wears and tears from the long periods of baseball activities, and their prime days as superstar athletics are long gone.

We all know this, but we are stuck with them at this point. It's too late to cut our loss by selling them high to another manager who still believes in their resurgences (if you happened to be playing with one of those people, stop reading and go trade now), and we have invested too much to leave them on the bench.

Here comes the question. If you have to choose one or the other for the rest of the season, who would you rather have on your team? McCutchen is a better name, but Upton is a year younger. Let's call it a tie and see if we can find any more information.

McCutchen's .167 ISO and 12.3% HR/FB are actually not too far off from his career numbers. His power tool still looks fine, but his biggest struggle has come from his plate discipline. His current K% and BB% both are the worst in his career. Justin Upton? Exactly the same issue.

McCutchen 2016

McCutchen Career

Upton 2016

Upton Career

ISO

.167

.196

.166

.199

HR/FB

12.3%

12.7%

12.3%

14.8%

K%

24.8%

18.0%

30.1%

24.5%

BB%

8.1%

11.7%

6.8%

10.0%

Their problems look very similar, but they are very different deep down. McCutchen is having the classic too-much-swings-and-misses problem. His contract rate on out-of-the-zone pitches has dropped significantly this year, and therefore his swing and strike rate shot up to 11.9% (Career: 8.9%). On the other hand, it's tough to locate any noticeable issue on Upton's swings this year. His plate discipline hasn't changed much, but he still has been suffering from higher K%. What does that mean? I can't guarantee, but could it be that his high K% was something to do with luck, rather than his fading skills?

Monthly K%

McCutchen

Upton

April

22.9%

38.4%

May

22.9%

34.7%

June

28.3%

22.0%

July

25.5%

26.8%

Obviously Upton strikes out more than McCutchen does in general, but the evolution of their monthly K% is interesting. While McCutchen's rate hovers around his season average, Upton has been showing a significant improvement over the last two months. In fact, his 24.2% K-rate since June lines up perfectly with his career 24.5%, and he has hit .260/.321/.480 since then, which resembles his career .269/.347/.468 line.

Also, McCutchen has shown a sharp deterioration in his base running for the last few years. After attempting well above 30 steals per season every year since 2010, his attempts began to decrease starting 2014: The yearly numbers go 21, 16, and, 13 (projection). Moreover, he is only 3 for 8 in his steal attempts so far this year. According to Bill James's Speed measure, he is scoring 3.2 on the season, which is easily his career low, and 2.4 points off from his career average.

Meanwhile, Upton has scored 5.3 on the same measure, and that's only 0.2 off from his career number. His 7 SB so far is a disappointment after 19 SB in 2015, but the decline has more to do with him not having enough chances to steal rather than him losing steps on his wheels.

Overall, while their struggles look very similar on paper, there is a good chance that Upton was having nothing more than a bit-stretched league adjustment period after playing his entire career in the NL, while McCutchen is having more serious aging-related problems. I'm sure it isn't a popular opinion, but I would try to buy low on Upton, and I would even offer McCutchen for Upton straight up deal at this point. Plus, I'm already planning on drafting Upton cheap, but passing McCutchen at the next year's draft.

If you are owner of either player, I'm sure you have been cursing at them all year long. We have only two months left on the season, and maybe this is the time to make your decision. What would you do?

Steamer Rest of the Season Projection

Player

CF Rank

PA

HR

RBI

R

AVG

SB

Andrew McCutchen

5th

241

9

31

33

0.286

4

Justin Upton

10th

221

9

30

28

0.262

4