The Atlanta Braves took an aggressive approach to bolstering their outfield this offseason, signing B.J. Upton in free agency and acquiring Justin Upton via trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Add in right fielder Jason Heyward, and fantasy baseball owners now have a plethora of good options in the Atlanta outfield.
But for the purposes of this “Face-Off” piece, I will narrow my focus to the Upton brothers. Is one a better fantasy option than the other for 2013?
The older Upton hit .246 with a career-high 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31 stolen bases last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, giving him back-to-back seasons with at least 20 home runs and 30 steals. A back injury that caused him to miss the start of the season seemed to be in the rear view mirror after the All-Star break, as he hit 21 home runs after that point (12 in September).
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has mentioned Upton as a possibility to hit leadoff, and he has had success from that spot in the lineup. But his on-base percentage (.298 in 2012; .336 career) is not that of a prototypical leadoff hitter, and his power makes him well-suited to hitting in the middle of Atlanta’s lineup.
Upton injured his left thumb in April and the injury seemed to bother him all season, leading to a significant drop-off in home runs (17) and RBI (67) after he set career-highs in both categories in 2011. But, like his brother, he finished the season strongly by hitting .301 with six home runs in September.
Upton has over 3,000 career plate appearances, but he will still only turn 26 in August. A confluence of experience and talent may come in 2013 as he enters his prime.
Both Upton brothers belong in the top tier of fantasy outfielders, and not many other players offer a power and speed combination on the level they do. Any fantasy owner will certainly be glad to have either one on their roster this year.
Choosing which of the Braves’ new outfielders is the better fantasy option comes down to one category-batting average. Justin Upton has a clear advantage there, with a batting average of .280 or better in three of the last four seasons, while B.J. Upton has not hit above .250 in a season since 2008. With stat lines that are likely to be similar overall, the younger Upton’s ability to be a significant five-category producer gives him the advantage here.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.