B.J. Upton has been an interesting and disturbingly frustrating player since he arrived in the Majors. He has a career slash of .257/.342/.413 over parts of seven seasons. Upton arrived to the Majors at the age of 19, playing in 45 games in 2004 before spending all of 2005 in the Minors and arriving forever in late 2006 after struggling to a .269/.374/.394 line in his second time around Triple-A.
Upton has an incredible blend of speed, power, impatience, and patience. He can take a walk or look like Vladimir Guerrero and swing at a ball that hits halfway between the mound and home. His career walk percentage of 11.2% is on par with Ryan Howard’s last few seasons, while his strikeout rate of 24.8% is similar to what Curtis Granderson is doing this season. Yankees fans will take his strikeouts with his power numbers going higher, but some, including myself, have limited Upton’s value based on his inability to get on base. When you consider his lifetime average on balls in play (BABIP), Upton’s current .284 is significantly lower than his lifetime .328 BABIP. Basically, he could erupt when his averages even out. Upton is just 26 (he turns 27 in late August), so he is just heading into his prime.
Upton is an elite talent, but maybe it is Tropicana Field that is limiting him. There are now calls from Major League Baseball to do something about the mess of the stadium, but what about the mess to Upton? He is hitting just .179/.261/.327 at home this season compared to his .292/.372/.491 line on the road. That .863 OPS that he has on the road would compare him favorably to Jacoby Ellsbury, who has an .866 OPS this season.
Upton isn’t alone in this huge split, the entire Rays team is hitting just .228/.298/.371 at home and .258/.325/.416 line on the road. How drastic is that difference? The Rays are 25th in the Majors overall in hitting, 28th at home (23-24) and 8th on the road (28-20).
“Bossman Junior” would benefit from a trade immediately. He could go from frustrating to elite with a change of scenery. His ability to steal bases (150 over the last 3 1/2 seasons), get on base (261 walks over the last 3 1/2 seasons), and hit for power (184 extra-base hits over the last 3 1/2 seasons) will be useful to some contending team. That is, if the Rays don’t get back in it. If they keep him and offer him arbitration, they could just play all of their games on the road where they have a .581 winning percentage over the last 18 months. Regardless, the Rays will be solid with or without him, as they have Desmond Jennings (when he gets back from his broken finger) and whatever they haul in a deal if they do deal him.