The BJ Upton I’ve Been Waiting For

By Dustin Staggers

There are very few players in the MLB who are as frustrating to follow as Rays CF BJ Upton.  On the surface, he appears to have an MVP caliber skill set.  He has a good eye, can hit for extra base power and HR power, can steal bases with the best of them, and is so effortless in CF making non-routine plays look routine, that everyone once in awhile, the fans think he is dogging it because he can’t get to a ball that is hit 70 feet from him.

The most frustrating thing about BJ though is that only for a couple months over his career, has he put up the kind of numbers that you would think he should regularly put up.

His March/April splits were solid…

He showed that multi-dimensional skill set with 6 2b, 4 jacks, and 11 BB. These aren’t MVP splits, but nice solid top of the order type of numbers for Upton.

He followed the first month of the season up with truly one of the worst months I have ever seen from a player, and was a clear choice for our Bums of May column.

A .611 OPS is not acceptable for anyone other than the soft hitting Dioner Navarro, and even still, Navi is not a hitter you want to be compared to. He struck out twice as much in May as he did in April, walked less, hit for less power in all aspects and could not put the bat on the ball very much at all. When you strike out more than 2x the amount of times you get a hit, there isn’t much to say in your defense.

Recently though, BJ has been showing that tantalizing skill set with the bat. He is going beserk in June.

That .996 OPS is the kind of MVP caliber potential I spoke of earlier in the article. He is striking out less than he is walking, which he hasn’t done in any month up until June. If guys are hitting the ball and walking more than heading back to the dugout on called strikes (which is BJ’s specialty) than you know they are feeling it with the bat. With only 3 extra base hits, to still sit at a .996 OPS for the month with no HR’s is pretty impressive. If he can add a couple bombs to that total, he is looking at his first 1.000+ OPS month since July of 2007.

His hit trajectory numbers clearly show that when BJ is seeing the ball and drilling liners all over the field, which he is clearly doing right now, is when he excels the most. You see a lot of strikeouts and grounders from BJ when he is frustrated, hurt or just struggling, and line drives and EBH when he is feeling it. Clearly right now he is feeling it.

The Rays need BJ to provide them with some middle of the order EBH and power, and with the up and down nature of this teams as far as hitting is concerned, anytime is the right time for BJ to swing the bat kind of bat that makes him such a tantalizing talent.