May 3, 2010
B.J. Upton is back
Despite immense talent, B.J. Upton has had a mostly disappointing career. Not bad, mind you, but disappointing. Early on there was difficulty finding him a position on the field, which hampered his development. And then shoulder problems sapped his power. We received a glimpse of Upton's potential in 2007 when he hit .300/.386/.508. Another year removed from shoulder surgery and with some tweaks to his swing, it looks as if Upton's power has finally returned. His .242/.330/.440 line won't blow you away, but there are reasons to be bullish about the Tampa Bay Rays 25-year-old center fielder.
Late last year, TMI contributor R.J. Anderson wrote a post over at DRaysBay in which he broke down Upton's swing. He noticed that Upton was swinging with his shoulder flying open, which hurt him on outside pitches and prevented him from driving the ball to the opposite field.
This year, his shoulders look more level as his bat comes through the zone, and appear more in sync with the lower half of his body. His swing, always fast due to his powerful and quick wrists, doesn't have the same odd hitch it had last season, and it's allowing him to drive the ball to all fields.
A total of 39 percent of his balls in play have gone to left field, 34 percent have gone to right and 27 percent to center.
Upton was mostly a pull hitter last year, but he's using the whole field thus far this season, which is promising. Also, his batting line is better than you think. For starters, Upton's batting average on balls in play is .273. Considering his career number is .338, and he's probably been a bit unlucky thus far. More notable is his isolated power, which currently sits at .198 after hovering around .130 the past two seasons. The last time it approached .200 was his aforementioned 2007 season, when it was .209.
Upton's 2007 season hinted that there was a potential monster player there. If he's finally over his shoulder problems, as it appears he is, Tampa Bay's offense, which is already loaded, would be downright scary.