New Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton moves to the National League after spending his first six years with the Tampa Bay Rays. Since his rookie year in 2007, his offensive production has declined every season.
As a promising rookie, Upton hit .300 with a strong wOBA of .386. While he didn’t exactly suffer the dreaded sophomore slump in 2008, his numbers nonetheless dipped. That drop in production set in motion what was to come for the next four years, whereby Upton has yet to reach his rookie numbers.
Upton could be one of those players that just need a change of scenery, but I really doubt it. Why would a player need to leave a team that has been competitive in nearly every season in which he was a member of the organization?
Perhaps things just weren’t working out for Upton in Tampa — or in the American League, for that matter.
Upton now moves over to the National League East to hit in a lineup that is much more potent than the Rays. Depending on where the Braves bat him, Upton may see a different pitching approach that could work in his favor.
Regardless, Upton hasn’t exactly feasted on NL pitching. In 2011, he held a .250 batting average though 60 at-bats, although he did slug .483 with 12 home runs. He also led the team in strikeouts with 18. In 2012, he followed the precedent by dropping his numbers further. He hit .243 (74 at-bats) with an OPS of .619. He again led the team in strikeouts with 22.
Hitting for power shouldn’t be an issue with Upton — in fact, it could increase to a career-high. But, the problem Upton will have will be getting on base. He’s not a patient hitter and consistently strikes out at a rate of nearly one in every four at-bats.
The belief is that pitching in the American League is superior so it should stand to reason that Upton will have more success in the NL — I wouldn’t count on it, though.