B.J. Upton left one of the premier organizations in MLB, the Tampa Bay Rays, for a five-year, $75 million contract with the Atlanta Braves — the largest contract in franchise history. When the Braves traded for his brother Justin, the feeling in Atlanta was that the siblings might ride into town and dislodge the lingering mournfulness over the lately retired Chipper Jones.
Despite possessing supreme athletic talent, Upton’s career has been marred by inconsistency at the plate. Frank Wren took a gamble that Upton, who is well into the prime of his athletic career, could finally put all of the chips on the table and turn into a nationally recognized superstar. The hope was that Upton and his brother could be the faces of a new era after the last remnants of Atlanta’s championship dynasty had gone on to greener pastures. Thus far, that has not happened.
Nearing the All-Star Break, Upton has failed to show any signs of pushing toward a .200 batting average. His combination of power and speed has been rendered useless by his inability to reach first base. Unlike other struggling hitters such as Andre Ethier and, to an extent, Upton’s own teammate Jason Heyward, Upton isn’t platoonable. His numbers are equally bad against lefties and righties, at home or away, on grass or turf and in each of the seven different spots that he has hit in the lineup this season. There isn’t a way to ‘manage’ him out of his struggles by giving him favorable matchups: Nothing has been favorable for him so far this season.
It remains to be seen whether the elder half of the Upton experiment will do his part to lead the Braves back into the glory days, or if, in years hence, the sibling reunion will be looked back upon as nothing more than an absurd and elaborate marketing ploy. Upton’s performance for the Braves to this point projects towards the latter.