Rob Carr/Getty Images
B.J. Upton has yet to break out of an early season slump.
It is safe to say that the first five weeks of B.J. Upton's time in Atlanta did not go exactly the way he nor the team had drawn them up.
After signing the richest free-agent contract in franchise history, Upton has yet to find any consistency at the plate. The strikeout totals have been somewhat alarming—42 in 111 at-bats—and his .153 average through 30 games definitely qualifies as a dismal start.
He entered the season as a .278 career hitter in the opening month but batted just .143 this April. It was Upton's first month on a new team in a new league. Not the first impression he was hoping for.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what has changed so drastically. Looking over his career and yearly splits confirms what the Braves were already well aware of upon signing him over the winter. He is a talented but somewhat streaky hitter with a propensity to strikeout.
Over the course of his career, Upton has never batted below .200 in a single month more than one time in a season. However, his .143 average in April is the lowest single mark in any month of his career. One can only hope that is an indicator that the worst is behind him.
As far as slotting Upton into a regular spot in the lineup, it would seem that a less pressure-filled spot would be the best thing until he finds his swing. Then again, a slump provides pressure even in lower leverage situations.
Extended time on the bench is highly unlikely, given the fact that the club is nowhere close to giving up on high-dollar talent just five weeks into a five-year contract.
Do not misunderstand either: That decision is not based solely on the financial investment.
When Upton is right, he has the ability to hit for power, drive in runs and impact the game with his base-running prowess. Those things, along with his defense, make him too valuable to keep on the bench, regardless of how well a reserve may be playing at the time.
For the time being, hitting Upton in the seventh slot would still allow for run-producing opportunities. He could also find himself starting off a few innings, stealing some bases and helping energize the lower third of the order.
If he happens to get hot, Upton could always be bumped up in the order. That could provide a nice boost, especially if Upton goes on a 12-homer tear like he did in September of last season.
Perhaps Upton will end up batting second when Jason Heyward presumably slides down in the order over the next few years.
If all the pieces are in place this season, that question can wait.