Justin Upton - 5 Tool Players

Q.  What's the scouting report on his swing?  Does the mainframe go for his mechanics?

A.  Big time.  Upton is in the Casper Wells, Alex Liddi type mold that we've discussed in the past.  Maybe Upton's a little better than them.  The principles are the same.

Wells and Liddi take advantage of unusual natural strength to create short paths to the baseball.  Upton takes this to another level.  In this video, he hits a 457-foot home run with almost no load at all.

His head is quiet, his body is calm from knee to shoulder, he "keeps one point" and simply takes advantage of his physical attributes.  Love, love, love the combo.

(You'd have to hope that Safeco didn't condition him to load more.  We doubt that it would.  You'll remember that Griffey's physical movements transcended anything else that was going on around him.)


Q.  How is his speed right now?  How much does he help the ballclub with his glove and legs?

A.  His speed index used to be 150, which was Ichiro-like.  Now it's 120, well above average.  I dunno, his backside and legs aren't that big, so he could hold up Cameron-style; I'd pencil him for a sustained 120 SX from here.

I'd pay him for average-solid speed and defense, but then again that 6.4 WAR last season was not based on UZR or defense.  Don't give him any money for stolen bases, but pay him for +5  or even +10 runs with the leather compared to other right fielders, such as Jayson Werth, Jay Bruce, those guys.


Q.  What is his career-arc sabermetrically?

A.  Ron Shandler wrote this prior to 2012:

Surging power skills (a 160 PX for the year and 185 !! for the second half - jjc) and huge CT% increase propelled major breakout at age 23, reversing 2010 skills regression ... it's "All Aboard" time as this is likely the first in a train of highly productive seasons as he chugs toward elite station.  While regression is possible, if CT% gains and 2H power hold ... UP:  .300+ / 40 HR.

In English:  the guy showed a rocket rise in both PWR and HIT, meaning he simply got a lot better.  Nothing's for sure, but a good dice roll at superstardom.

The 185 PX that Upton flashed in the second half, the 424-foot homer average, the increasing fly ball rate, it all suggests 50-homer potential.


Q.  How healthy's he going to be?

A.  You got me there.  I ain't Lloyds of London.  And I ain't betting anything I'm afraid to lose, that he won't be a 125-game-a-year man from here out.

I'm the Mariners and I acquire Upton, I don't force him to play through messed-up thumbs.  I let him rest, I get my 120-140 games, I give one of my other kids a chance to play some.  

Worked for Rickey's teams.  Treat those guys like Ferraris, rather than dump trucks, and you'll get some tickets from the highway patrol.




ghost's picture

Scouts love the five tools, hit, hit for power, run, field and throw.
All good things to have.
The sixth tool is more important than the other five. A brian that works. Upton doesn't have one.


Based on what, ghost?
But gimme a 140 OPS idiot savant and I'll be just fine.
btw, I'm not sure that I have a brian that works, either! :) Just joshing, you know....as I'm sure that I'm the all-time champeen of typos.

ghost's picture

That is actually hilarious considering the context. I use sabermetrics to determine player intelligence. It's things like CS%, defensive efficiency, assist rates, O-SW%, O-CT% and BB/K for me...smart players do everything they can to get the most out of their abilities. Dumb players just get by on being better than their opponent. Upton is a quintessential dumb player with his bad BB/K, bad O-SW%, bad O-CT%, mediocre defense considering his awesome defensive tools and poor baserunning.


For example, his best comp is a current ML player who shares 50% of his DNA.  
And there's the fact that his performance is up-and-down.  And the fact that his performance is currently down.
Not sure that the questioning of his natural power, or his game attitude, is the same direction I'd go, but it is interesting that we've got some guys holding down the case-against.  Makes for a well-balanced discussion :- )

ghost's picture

Upton career UZR/150: +4.0 (OK, but he's faster and has a better arm than that)
Upton career BsR/150: +2.5 (again, with his speed he should be bagging 8 or 10 runs)
Upton career SB%: 70% (barely breaking even...not good)
Upton career O-SW%: 26% (slightly worse than MLB average)
Upton career O-CT%: 53% (slightly better than MLB average, which is bad)
Upton career BB/K: 0.38 (barely good enough to expect long term stability...for now)
That is a very mediocre skill set for a guy who is supposed to be a five-tool player, Doc. A real-deasl marquee player should be worth 5 runs on the bases, 10 runs in the field, 40 runs at the plate and do most of those little things right that I just listed to get there. Upton does none of those things particularly well.


Shut 'em down now and again and tweak the tuning. Then let 'em roar.
140 games from an Upton would be just fine.
And remember that you could get 15 games of DH from him, or whatever...so you would actually rest the legs more than that.
As I said, I would be in on this....if I knew that we had cleared space and were going to quit jacking young guys around and let them hit.
Include Smoak and Guti and then....
Gimme a Wells/Saunders/Upton OF and a Trayvon or even a Ford as the 4th guy.
With Carp at 1B, he could man LF if needed.
Liddi slugs away at the DH spot. Catricala is a DH/CIF.
All this means you give Montero the job and quit pretending he can't handle it.
Would the M's just give the SS job to Franklin? Don't know.
But it looks like you have to fit him in someplace.
If Arizona demanded Ackley, straight up, would you do it?

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