2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 36: Is Dbacks' Justin Upton Who We Thought He Was?

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2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 36: Is Dbacks' Justin Upton Who We Thought He Was?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

As I noted last season, Baseball America once claimed “The term ‘five-tool prospect’ somehow doesn’t seem strong enough for (Justin) Upton.” Coming off a 26/20/.300 age-22 season in 2009, it appeared as though the junior Upton was prepared for fantasy stardom.

Upton’s 2010 campaign failed to impress, however, as the former No. 1 overall pick posted a 17/18/.273 line in just 133 games. Perhaps most discouraging was Upton’s alarmingly high strikeout rate of 30.7 percent, seventh worst in the majors. Likewise, his contact rate (74.3 percent, MLB average 80.7 percent) was 16th worst among qualified batters.  

Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers was reportedly fielding offers for Upton this offseason, but a deal never surfaced. Looking forward to 2011, there are reasons to remain optimistic about Upton.

It’s important to remember that Upton is entering his age-23 season. Other young phenoms such as Carlos Gonzalez (25) and Andrew McCutchen (24) finally broke through last season after what seemed like several years of hype.

Also, Upton’s plus-power/speed talent didn’t suddenly disappear. The 30/30 potential is still there. Heck, he showed life at times last year, batting .312 with eight HRs, five steals and 25 RBI between June and July.

Further, FanGraphs’s Dave Cameron wrote up an interesting piece a while back detailing players since 1980 who have recorded at least 100 MLB at-bats by age 20 (Upton, of course, qualifies). 

The point was to highlight the careers of players whose talent ushered them to regular playing time in the majors before turning 20.

The results were encouraging. Of the previous 19 players listed, 10 have become All-Stars, three are no-doubt Hall of Famers, and two are working towards Hall of Fame status.

While this doesn’t guarantee anything, it should serve as a pleasant reminder to have patience with Upton.

Due to a lingering shoulder injury that flared up again last August, Upton missed all but four September games. He has reportedly taken on a “rigorous strengthening program” this offseason to solidify his health.

Given his first full season of more than 138 games this year, he may finally begin to approach elite standards.

  PA R HR RBI SB AVG
2010 stats 571 73 17 69 18 .273
3-year average 525 70 19 66 12 .277
2011 FBI Forecast 625 90 25 90 20 .282

 

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