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October 3, 2013

Advance Scouting Series

Justin Upton

by Tim Steggall

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Advance Scouting Report

Filed by: Tim Steggall

Player Name: Justin Upton

Context: Nine Games; 9/13/13 to 9/22/13




1st P






















Sample vs. Season:

Batting average and slugging were significantly higher during this sample, while on-base percentage was very similar. Approach from earlier in the season has not changed, results have.



While he is listed at 6'2, 205, the younger Upton is a physical specimen who probably tips the scales closer to 225. He is one of the more impressive players to wear a baseball uniform, with strong legs and a barrel chest, so the upward estimate in weight is not meant in any way to be a slight, though the body may be a worry in the future. Upton has played in 143 of the 155 games this season, and has no known injuries.

Hit Tool

Hit Tool: 50 - With the size listed above and plus bat speed and strength, it is easy to see why Upton was the no. 1 pick overall in 2005, though an inconsistent swing does not allow his tools to play up consistently. When on time, Upton features a balanced swing with minimal head movement, and exceptional hip torque that allows his hands to explode through the zone and drive the ball to all fields; he has a stiff upper body that leads to a grooved swing through the middle-in and bottom halves of the zone. Has trouble reaching the outer half of the plate and the top part of the zone even when it appears he is cheating fastball and on time. In the sample I watched, Upton was rarely on time due to an inconsistent leg kick/load; often starts his load as pitcher is at or near his release point, causing him to be late and have to rush the remainder of his swing, often losing his balance and posture and leading to bad contact. When off balance he is more likely to chase out of the zone. Late on fastballs, early on breaking balls. Upton seems to have adjusted to this and appears to sit breaking ball and react to fastballs. Will get caught between pitches, putting defensive hacks on fastballs early or slowing his bat down to make contact with off-speed in up counts. Rarely squared up fastballs on the outer half or elevated. Has trouble with velocity. Breaking balls allow him to get back on time, and hanging breakers are often demolished to his pull side. So strong that even bad contact often finds holes. It is a testament to Upton’s physical tools that he has been able to work through an inconsistent swing and have success. Inconsistent from game to game, at-bat to at-bat, but physical tools are so impressive they often shine through.

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Much more comfortable in the box vs. LHP, probably because usually less velocity. More often has balanced swing. Breaking pitches are still bad, pitches moving into his bat path will be barreled. Fastball elevated is good, but with less velocity comes more risk. Executed sequences can get him but LHP has to work harder to disrupt his timing and has much less room for error. Should not face LHP in important situations.

Aggressive on fastballs early, but rarely puts the ball in play. Stays middle/oppo on fastballs. Plus velocity (94+) can beat him. Can hit middle away but has trouble with located fastball away. Can get in on him with fastball –he will have to cheat to get to it. Wants to use middle of the field on fastballs. Wants to pull breaking pitches and off-speed. Off-speed needs to be located/miss off the plate away; much more consistent barrel on breaking pitches. Challenge hard early, show soft away off the plate, finish hard in under the hands.

Notable At-bats




Second AB vs Erlin (LHP). Upton stays on CH just long enough; Erlin throws the right pitch just slightly elevated and Upton's strength turns broken bat into bloop single.


9/17/13 Game Two. First inning vs. Roark (RHP). Upton gets ahead 3-0 before taking a bad swing on 3-1, and then swinging through a fastball on 3-2.


Second AB vs. Wood (LHP). Wood executes sequence – soft away, hard in/up leading to an Upton strikeout.


Grade 65 – Physical specimen with exceptional raw power, inconsistent swing leads to lesser results. Home run power is mostly to pull side, often on breaking balls and off-speed. When his timing clicks, will drive fastballs out in the middle of the field, gap to gap. At times shows the ability to stay on top of the baseball and drive pitches to right center for doubles and the occasional home run. So strong that even bad contact can be driven. When Upton’s timing is locked in, as he was in April, one of the best power hitters in the league.

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Stays on LHP stuff better than RHP. Will drive the ball with more authority to the opposite field. LHP’s mostly stay away, but Upton does a better job of driving the ball the other way for doubles. If pitch is moving into his swing path will pull with authority. Makes harder, more consistent contact vs. LHP.

Power vs. RHP is most noticeable on breaking pitches and off-speed pitches. RHP can very rarely “steal” a strike with a get me over breaking ball. When on time, can drive fastballs and breaking balls alike out to the deepest parts of any ballpark.

Notable At-bats




Second AB vs. Kennedy (RHP). Upton stays inside a first pitch CH and pulls it down the line for homerun.


Third AB vs. Ohlendorf (RHP). Upton deposits first pitch slider into left center field seats. Upton’s timing was locked in this entire game.


Fourth AB vs Wood (LHP). Stays on cut middle/down, hooks down the left field line.

Speed/ Baserunning

4.22, 4.36, 4.15 on a lunge/jailbreak. For a player with such a swing that features such a large amount of torque, he gets down the line fairly well. Despite his speed he is only 7/8 on stolen bases this season. Very safe baserunner; makes very few outs on the bases. Station to station. Will take the extra base only when not in question.

Conclusions and Means of Attack

Upton in an aggressive hitter who wants to swing the bat. While he will take a walk, he will swing at pitches around the zone. While he rarely swings at pitches drastically out of the zone, it seems like he is not so discerning on pitches in the zone; will swing at many pitches in the zone but does not often find consistent barrel. While Upton cuts an imposing figure, pitchers can challenge him with fastballs in the zone away or elevated. Challenge him early, force him to prove that he can catch up to and barrel velocity, or stay on the fastball and drive it the other way. Off-speed pitches must be thrown with caution – must be located on the outer edge of the plate or miss away. Can be beat with executed sequences – soft away, hard in; soft down, hard up. Set up to finish in. Should not face a LHP in an important situation. RHPs challenge hard in with velocity if in need of groundball.

Matchup Stats at a Glance

First Pitch Swing

16/39 = 41 percent

Bunt Threat (Sac, Push, Drag)

Will show drag in sacrifice situations.


Straight up. Shortstop shade 6-hole. 2B deep.


Corners straight up. Center shaded to right center. Balls hit to left center will be driven out of the park or will hang up.


vs. LHP


vs. RHP


Full-season spray chart

In-sample spray chart

Tim Steggall is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Tim's other articles. You can contact Tim by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Advance Series

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