JAYS FROM THE COUCH BRINGS YOU THE PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS FROM THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS’ 2016 SEASON. THIS TIME: MELVIN UPTON JR.
On July 26th, with the San Diego Padres in town to face the Toronto Blue Jays in an interleague matchup, Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. took the long walk around the Rogers Centre and into the Blue Jays locker room. Upton was traded that day for cash and minor leaguer Hansel Rodriguez. Upton added outfield depth for the Blue Jays, speed on the base paths, and additional power at the plate. Putting together a resurgent season in San Diego hitting .256/.304/.439, while swiping 20 bases, and hitting 16 home runs. This deal looked like an absolute steal for the Blue Jays, as the Padres would be covering a majority of Upton’s remaining contact which went into the 2017 season.
Trading a player is weird. To think that the company that you work for doesn’t want you anymore, and can just ship you off for someone they would rather have is… weird. It’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t be tough on the player being traded. Troy Tulowitzki felt the same way last season, slightly betrayed by his former team, and had trouble adjusting to his new setting in Toronto. Upton didn’t perform well in the 57 games he played in Toronto, hitting .196/.261/.318, hitting 4 home runs, striking out 29.7% of his at bats, and going from everyday player in San Diego to a fourth outfielder not playing consistently everyday.
Upton was a frustrating player for many as he’s not someone who hits for average, or draws a ton of walks. When looking at the amount of pitches Upton swings at inside/outside/and total swing percentage, he ranks ~5% league average, which equates to around league average in pitch recognition.
The glaring number of Upton’s approach at the plate, is the lack of contact he makes with pitches inside the zone, hitting 73.7% of pitches inside the strike zone, dead last in the MLB, where league average is 86.3%. Looking below at Upton’s batting average heat map, you can see that Upton is very effective when pitches are down in the zone, specifically fastballs down in the zone. Anything up in the zone, and Upton had trouble catching balls for base hits.
One game that comes to mind was on August 28th this season. The Blue Jays were at home, facing off against the lowly Minnesota Twins. Marcus Stroman would struggle early on in the game, and in the fourth inning the Jays found themselves down 5-0. The Jays would rally back a few runs, but so would the Twins. Trailing 6-7 in the 8th inning, the Jays would need some go ahead clutch runs with only six outs to go. Kevin Pillar would hit a double, only one more base hit might tie this game. With Upton Jr. stepping up to the plate with one out, Ryan Pressly would throw Upton a pitch low, and then this happened —
Upton would triple and score on the error, bringing Roberto Osuna into the game to finally seal the deal. This game was a wild one, and definitely one of the most memorable games of the year compliments of Upton.
Unfortunately the lowlights to Upton’s season started the second he joined the Toronto Blue Jays. He was having a resurgent season in San Diego, hitting for power, stealing bases, and hitting for a decent average. While he did address some of the Blue Jays needs defensively in the outfield with Jose Bautista being in and out of the lineup, and Michael Saunders starting to struggle. Upton didn’t help the Jays out much at the plate, in the second half Upton hit .190/.253/.304, and struck out 30% of the time.
With Pillar being the only full time outfielder coming back next season for sure, Upton might get a significant increase in playing time, which bodes well for him entering a contract year at the age of 32. Upton has a skill set that the Blue Jays are looking for with his mixture of speed and power, he is extremely valuable, but he has holes in his game that can make fans scratch their heads.
While he is setup for a potential full time playing role next season, he will still have to fight for his position in Spring Training. Ezequiel Carrera turned heads in he post season with his play in the field and clutch hits, and Dalton Pompey is on the fringe of playing in the majors full time. One of the most intriguing storylines entering next season is the Blue Jays outfield situation, and Upton adds to the intrigue of how the Blue Jays roster shakes out in 2017.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 cropped from original