Melvin Upton Jr.
Melvin Upton Jr.
34-Year-Old OutfielderOF
 Free Agent  
Free Agent
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Upton's five-year, $75.2 million deal is finally over, and now he currently has a minor-league deal with Cleveland for 2018. His stat capsule is not an error as he did not have a major-league plate appearance in 2017 and only had 49 in Triple-A before going down with a thumb injury. His new deal is for $1.5 million if he makes the club, and going to Cleveland is a nice fit for him because the club does a good job of utilizing platoons. Upton is nowhere near what he once was, but what he can do is hit lefties very well. Over his past two seasons of major-league play, Upton has a .267/.352/.492 line against lefties in 220 plate appearances. The last time we saw Upton, he put up a 20-20 season while playing for San Diego and Toronto. In deep AL-only leagues, Upton could be a dart throw that pays off in dollar days. Read Past Outlooks
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$Signed a minor-league contract with the Indians in December of 2017. Released by the Indians in March of 2018.
Released by Indians
OFFree Agent  
March 19, 2018
Upton was released by the Indians on Monday, T.J. Zuppe of The Athletic Cleveland reports.
ANALYSIS
It appears Upton has opted to look elsewhere for a major-league opportunity after being informed he wouldn't make the Indians' Opening Day roster. The 33-year-old struggled to get things going in Cactus League action, hitting just .189/.250/.297 in 40 plate appearances. If Upton does find his way back to the majors, it will likely be in a part-time capacity.
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Batting Stats
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Left/Right Batting Splits
Since 2016
 
 
+38%
OPS vs LHP
2018
No Stats
2017
No Stats
2016
 
 
+38%
OPS vs LHP
OPS PA R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Since 2016vs Left .874 135 24 9 21 10 .275 .341 .533
Since 2016vs Right .634 403 40 11 40 17 .226 .274 .360
2018vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016vs Left .874 135 24 9 21 10 .275 .341 .533
2016vs Right .634 403 40 11 40 17 .226 .274 .360
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Home/Away Batting Splits
Since 2016
 
 
+3%
OPS on Road
2018
No Stats
2017
No Stats
2016
 
 
+3%
OPS on Road
OPS PA R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Since 2016Home .682 258 30 7 29 18 .240 .296 .386
Since 2016Away .703 280 34 13 32 9 .236 .286 .417
2018Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016Home .682 258 30 7 29 18 .240 .296 .386
2016Away .703 280 34 13 32 9 .236 .286 .417
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2017
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2003
Upton started the 2016 season on a tear in San Diego. Prior to the All-Star break, the 11-year veteran slashed .262/.311/.454 with 16 home runs, 44 RBI and scored 45 runs over 324 at-bats. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to Toronto and his production took a nosedive. He hit just .190 with four home runs and posted a 33.3 percent strikeout rate in 168 at-bats for the Jays, including a paltry .146 average in the campaign's final month, his worst mark for any month of the year. Upton displayed terrible plate discipline in 2016 as a whole. His 67.9 percent contact rate was the third-lowest in all of MLB, and his 6.9 percent walk rate was a career low. Toronto's outfield lacks depth, which leaves Upton with more than a good chance to lock down a spot in the team's outfield. An everyday job over a full season in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre would provide a slight boost to Upton's value in 2017.
The Braves found that the only way they could get out from under Upton's disastrous contract was to attach him to elite closer Craig Kimbrel in a trade, and they did just that prior to Opening Day. A change of both scenery and name -- he dropped the "B.J." nickname in favor of his birth name -- did not bring with it a career resurgence, but Upton did turn in better numbers with San Diego than he did in Atlanta, with the Padres opting to pick and choose his starts rather than throw him out there every day. He did benefit from a .348 BABIP, but Upton also had a 24.3% line-drive rate, by far the best mark of his career, and his numbers against right-handed pitching improved significantly from 2013-14. That said, Upton's contact rate was again below 70 percent, and at 31, it's possible his skills will only continue to deteriorate. He's best suited to fill a short-end platoon role in 2016.
To say Upton's second season in Atlanta was an improvement on his first, while true, would be to underscore just how awful he was in 2013. Although he was able to manage 12 homers and 20 steals, Upton finished with a .208 average in 2014, only better than the Orioles' Chris Davis among qualified hitters, and 173 strikeouts, fourth-most in the National League. While not quite to the same absurd extent, Upton again struggled against lefties to the tune of a .565 OPS, more than 180 points below his career mark of .747, and his contact rate dipped to 68.2%, his lowest since his rookie season. Despite Upton's ongoing struggles, manager Fredi Gonzalez remained intent on starting the 30-year-old on an everyday basis for most of the season and inexplicably batted him atop the order for a large portion of the year, though he did turn to Emilio Bonifacio some in September. There are still three years and more than $46 million remaining on Upton's contract, and while new president of baseball operations John Hart could look to get out from under the deal, the team may not have a choice but to keep Upton around. If he stays, don't put it past Gonzalez to play him frequently.
In Year 1 of a five-year, $75.25 million pact with Atlanta, Upton experienced an unfathomable fall from grace. He got off to a terrible start, posting a .145 average over the first two months of the season, and never rebounded, ultimately losing his everyday job and finishing with a .557 OPS, nearly 200 points below where it was in 2012 (.752). Upton struck out 151 times in 391 at-bats, with 49 of those coming in just 114 second-half trips to the dish. One season removed from hitting 28 homers and swiping 31 bags, Upton was one of the biggest fantasy busts in recent memory, and he will have to fight for playing time this spring, though the Braves surely aren't ready to completely give up on him with four years remaining on his contract.
Upton continued to produce in 2012 much as he has throughout his career and signed as a free agent with the Braves in the offseason for five years and $75.25 million. He hit .246/.298/.454 with a career-high 28 home runs and added 78 RBI. His on-base percentage was actually the lowest of his career as he only took 45 walks and struck out 169 times, his highest career total. He is consistent in his ways as a low batting average player with solid power and above average speed (31 stolen bases in 2012). His power really came on strong in the second half as 21 of his home runs were hit after the All-Star break. He will continue to be a strong defender in center field and has the flexibility to hit anywhere in the batting order, but the Braves see him hitting in the middle of the order. If he can improve his patience at the plate he could be undervalued on draft day given his strength in power and speed and with the help of a higher batting average.
Upton put together a very similar season to 2010 in 2011, suggesting further that he is what he is: a low batting average player who will hit around 20 home runs and steal around 40 bases. His batting average improved six points, his OBP eight points and his slugging percentage by five, closely resembling 2010. Figure those numbers in with a similar strikeout and walk rates and you have a player who has not declined but also has not developed as expected. While the small sample size caveat applies here, Upton did hit five home runs, steal nine bases and have a 23:17 K:BB ratio in 87 at-bats while hitting out of the second spot in the lineup. He remains one of the better fielders in the game and will likely remain a player whose name is constantly mired in trade rumors since the Rays have another center field option in Desmond Jennings. Depending on who the Rays sign or trade for, expect Upton to bat around sixth in the order and patrol center field on Opening Day.
Every year since 2007, fantasy owners have drafted Upton while waiting for him to break out with a .290 average and place in the 30-30 club. Reality is probably starting to set in as Upton can always be counted on for steals but the high batting average and power combo doesn't seem to be coming. Last year's home-run total was seven more than his 2009 total, which isn't surprising now that he's more than a year removed from shoulder surgery. To take the next step, Upton will have to improve his batting eye to cut down on the strikeouts (69.4 contact rate last season). He did hit 10 home runs while batting .260 over 192 at-bats during August and September - a possible sign of good things to come. Draft Upton for his speed and moderate power, just temper any lofty expectations in the batting average department.
Upton started the season on the DL as a result of offseason shoulder surgery and battled quad and ankle injuries during the season. Once he got back on the field, he failed to live up to lofty expectations. He struck out 152 times in 560 at-bats and his .313 OBP got him dropped from the leadoff spot to seventh in the batting order. Upton lost power as the season went on (seven home runs before the All-Star break, four after). However, better days should be ahead for Upton. He still managed to swipe 42 bags (third in the AL) and a career-low .312 BABIP suggests an improvement in batting average is on the horizon. His defense is outstanding, his 11.0 UZR was second to only Franklin Gutierrez for center fielders. Given his youth (25) he should be in line for a bounce-back season, but it remains to be seen if his power will return. Draft him for his speed and temper your power expectations.
Upton underwent surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder; the injury had nagged him all season and played a huge role in the drop in Upton's power numbers from 2007 levels. While he won't quite be ready for game action when camp opens, Upton is expected to be fully healthy and available by Opening Day. Upton's monster postseason line (.288/.333/.652, seven home runs in 16 games) indicates he'll be just fine in 2009 once his shoulder recovers; bid based on Upton's 2007 numbers, not 2008, to insure you don't miss out.
Upton started the year as the everyday second baseman, moved to center field when Rocco Baldelli got hurt and finished the year entrenched as Tampa Bay's center fielder for the foreseeable future. Although Upton drew quite a few walks last year, the Rays will work with him to cut down his strikeouts; with his speed, the Rays want Upton to put the ball in play as often as possible. Upton played 48 games at second base before being moved to center, so he should be middle-infield eligible in many leagues in 2008, likely for the last time.
The bloom has come off Upton's rose just a tiny bit, and really not of his own doing. The old Devil Rays regime kept Upton in the minors behind Julio Lugo too long and he regressed a bit at Triple-A last year. In addition, his defense still hasn't really improved at shortstop over the past few seasons, and he was downright awful with the glove at third base for the Rays. If he's not traded in the offseason, the Rays may move Upton to the outfield in 2007, provided a vacancy develops there. There's still tons to like about Upton, such as great speed and plate discipline and good power if he stays in the infield, but his 2007 fantasy value likely won't be clear until the team decides where he plays and how often.
Upton's bat is clearly big-league ready; the question is whether Upton's glove is ready for prime time, especially at shortstop, where he made 53 errors at Triple-A last year. The new Devil Rays regime backtracked from comments made late last season by outgoing GM Chuck LaMar to the effect that Upton would be moved to third base this year. Instead, they told Upton during the winter that he'd get every chance to win the big-league shortstop job, although they'd prefer to call him up after the season starts. So expect Upton to get some serious big-league playing time this year; the only questions are whether he's up on Opening Day or in June and at what position.
The second overall pick in the 2002 draft could win a starting job this spring. Upton could play short if Julio Lugo is traded or if Lugo is moved to second if the Rays don't sign a veteran to start over Jorge Cantu. Lugo could also play short and Upton third. Or Upton could move to left field with Carl Crawford in center since Rocco Baldelli is hurt. He could DH, too. Or he could start in Triple-A to polish his defense. Either way, if you kicked yourself back in '96 for not drafting then unknown Derek Jeter, take Upton now.
Upton enjoyed a great pro baseball debut in 2003. That month of Double-A is very impressive, considering Upton turned all of nineteen during that stint. He'll start 2004 back in Double-A and move up as quickly as his skills let him. He'll likely be competing for the major league shortstop job in the spring of 2005, and could make his MLB debut this September. There is nothing not to like about this prospect.
The Devil Rays' No. 1 draft choice (and No. 2 overall) in the 2002 draft. Due to protracted negotiations, he never got to play pro ball last year, so he'll make his pro debut in 2003, probably in Low-A ball. The Rays envision him becoming their regular shortstop by 2005 and the next Derek Jeter by 2007 or so. Obviously, with credentials like that, he's a keeper league candidate, but Upton so far is potential untouched by actual pro performance, so check to see how handles the minors in 2003.
More Fantasy News
Competing for roster spot
OFCleveland Indians  
February 19, 2018
Upton will compete for a spot on Cleveland's Opening Day roster during spring training, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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Minor-league deal with Indians
OFCleveland Indians  
December 15, 2017
Upton signed a minor-league deal with the Indians on Friday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports.
ANALYSIS
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Cut loose by San Francisco
OFFree Agent  
August 22, 2017
The Giants granted Upton his release Monday, Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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Returns to minor-league lineup
OFSan Francisco Giants  
August 8, 2017
Upton (shoulder) went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in his return to the lineup at Triple-A Sacramento, Andrew Baggarly of The San Jose Mercury News reports.
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Hampered by shoulder injury
OFSan Francisco Giants  
Shoulder
July 5, 2017
Upton is dealing with shoulder irritation, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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