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Has Upton's Star Fallen So Far?
Posted by Erik Siegrist at 12/5/2006 5:35:00 PM
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The Marlins are apparently inquiring cross-state in their search for a center fielder. It makes sense; they have the young pitching every other team (but especially one like Tampa Bay) covets, while the D-Rays have some options when it comes to their outfield. Rocco Baldelli was the initial name mentioned, but now BJ Upton's name has also surfaced, and his long-anticipated switch to CF may be just a few months away.

The thing in our update that made me do a double-take, though, was the closer: "The Marlins had been asking about Rocco Baldelli earlier this offseason, but it's rumored the Marlins did not offer enough pitching to get the Rays interested. Upton would come cheaper, of course."

Has Upton's value dropped so far that Rocco Baldelli would actually fetch more in a trade? Baldelli's power stroke developed nicely in 2006, and the Rays have painted themselves into a corner with Upton, it's true -- they've given up on him as a shortstop, don't seem to have room for him in the outfield, and are importing Akinori Iwamura to play third. That would seem to leave second base, a 'super-sub' type role for his first full MLB campaign, or another uniform as their options.

But it still boggles my mind that the former second overall pick, despite his recent problems, could be worth less on the open market than a guy coming off a career-best .339 OBP season (in fewer than 100 games, at that). If it's me, I part with Baldelli long before I give up on Upton.

But that's the question here: *is* it just me? Am I still just clinging to the past with Upton, and letting his ceiling blind me to the dangers of the floor we caught a glimpse of this past season?

Who would you rather have as your Opening Day center fielder in 2007: BJ Upton, or Rocco Baldelli?


I have mixed emotions here. Upton's batting eye actually improved a little this year at Durham, but his power completely cratered (although to be fair, it did that for a number of prospects at Durham). Still, I think him playing the infield is almost an untenable position, so his value does drop significantly. He's only 22 still, so there's room for improvement, but how much power can he grow into? As it currently stands, he's a below-average hitter for a center fielder, and there's no guarantee on how well he'll adapt defensively. Opening Day in 2007 - Baldelli. Opening Day in 2009 I think is the better question.
Posted by Erickson at 12/5/2006 10:17:00 PM
The average OPS for qualified CFs (didn't include Baldelli btw) last year was .806 with an average 24/7 SB/CS ratio, all of which I believe Upton would eclipse. So I'll again maintain the contrarian position against Jeff. It was a lost minor league year in 2006 for Upton, bogged down in offensive stagnation and defensive development issues. It's easy to prognosticate the 25-year-old major leaguer over top of the 22-year-old minor leaguer in 2007, but the athletic tools are in Upton's favor. While I too believe Baldelli will have a better year, the plate discipline issue makes it easy to believe in the probability of a schizophrenic Jose Guillen-esque career, and I'd take Upton in 2007, just to stem the stagnation and begin what I believe will be a more consistent offensive career.
Posted by arwen at 12/6/2006 7:04:00 AM
Upton is the type of guy that can post a .280/.360/.500 season or better in his prime with 50 stolen bases. He's an elite talent but has been horribly mismanaged by the D-Rays to this point. Is he a SS, 3B, OF?? It's been clear all along that he was too erratic to stay at shortstop and if the Rays knew, which they probably did, that they'd draft Longoria to play 3B AND bid on Iwamura, then why wasn't Upton converted to the OF (a la his brother in Arizona) much earlier?
Posted by vtadave at 12/6/2006 10:07:00 AM
While Upton certainly wasn't managed well by the Rays in the Chuck LaMar regime, we should point out that (a) the Rays didn't really know until shortly before the draft they'd get Longoria (everybody thought Colorado would take him until KC decided to stretch for Hochevar, which jumbled everything up), and (b) while the Rays may have been thinking this season they'd bid on Iwamura, they could hardly presume they'd actually win the bidding, or even be certain he'd be posted. I'm not sure yet whom I like long-term in CF for the Rays, Upton or Baldelli (who still has upside as well); I do think it's very important the Rays convert one of those assets into a pitcher who can team with Kazmir at the top of the rotation for a while.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 12/6/2006 12:39:00 PM

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