Feb 16, 2014; Lake Buena Vistas, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton (2) talks with the coach during spring training at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Hasn't Sprung for the Elder Upton Yet!

A few days ago, I wrote an article about how Dan Uggla is off to a fast start, and asked whether or not Dan can sustain it.  Dan has certainly shown some signs of life, but we always throw out the caveat that Spring Training rarely provides enough of a benchmark to make a solid prediction about an upcoming season.  While that is true, it is possible to watch a player, employ the good ole’ school eye test, and have what are sometimes very accurate “gut reactions”.

It’s amazing to me how so often, we writers, analysts, and baseball prognosticators are thinking of the same things at the same time.  Just as I was finishing up this article, I’ve seen now two other writers at different sites writing about the same thing – B.J. Upton.

I’ve not been really watching B.J. Upton, because there’s only been one televised game so far, and I didn’t get a chance to get down to Florida for any live Spring games this year.  I have some friends who have been down there though, and while they will remain anonymous, I trust their baseball acumen and instincts.  These guys I’m referring to were players, have been coaches, and know their stuff.   The following is what they’re telling me (roughly paraphrased) about watching B.J. play:

 B.J. looks completely out of his depth this Spring so far.  For a veteran, I find it amazing how little discipline he seems to have at the plate.

B.J. often has no reaction to strikes right down the middle of the plate, more often than not seems to get behind in the count, and then tries to play catch-up by swinging at pitches he should lay off of.

B.J. has worked on tweaking his stance, but it doesn’t seem to have improved his At Bat outcomes much.  Worst hitter on the Braves roster, by far!

I told all those guys that their thoughts on B.J. are pretty scathing, and while I try to be positive about the potential of any Braves’ player, I found myself unable to even partially defend B.J. Upton.  The best I could say was what I’ve already said – that it’s just Spring at the moment, and tweaking is still going on, and we should give B.J. time to see what he can correct.  Still, as they say, it ain’t lookin’ good!

B.J. has worked this off-season tweaking his stance and swing, as our own Fred Owens profiled in this article, but if my friends’ (who granted are not professional scouts, but who nonetheless have sharp baseball instincts) comments are any indication, fans might need to be as concerned this year as we became last year.

Yesterday, B.J. Upton had a total of 4 hits on 20 ABs for a .200 BA with 8 Ks, hitting on a line of .200/.238/.300/.538.  That was as of yesterday.  As I look at his stats today, he’s had a minor improvement after yesterday’s game.  B.J. now has had 22 ABs, with 5 hits for a .227 BA.  Either way, B.J. has not been too impressive so far, despite the fact that he IS likely still tweaking and working things out.  It’s early in Spring though, and there are quite a few more games to played, so we’ll have to wait and see.  

Clearly, just like Dan Uggla, Fredi Gonzalez is giving Upton quite a few ABs to get him stretched out and in some kind of groove, but so far the results aren’t what fans have hoped for.  David O’Brien wrote a piece just about the time I was finishing up my piece (again, amazing how writers zone in on similar subjects at the same time), and he quoted Atlanta Braves’ pitching coach, Greg Walker

He does some different things in the game than he doesn’t do in BP.  He knows what he’s trying to do, and in the games we’re getting about a third of them that are really good, and then about two-thirds of them he’s spinning. He seems to be getting better and better. We’re trying to get his bad-posture spin out of it.

We need more than what we’ve got so far, but he’s headed in the right direction, I think.

Nothing new here.  B.J. was performing well in BP last season as well, but couldn’t bring that performance out into live play.  That suggest to me the issue is somehow in his head, and not his bat, but then my fellow staffers at Tomahawk Take can attest that I’ve opined about that on many occasions going back a full year.

What’s your take on how well BJ Upton will do in 2014?  You think he can turn things around, ease well and finally into a stance that works for him, and play like he’s being paid?  Participate in our poll below and let us know what you think.  I have my doubts, because B.J. has tweaked his swing and stance throughout his career, and I still think that whatever is ailing him is in his head, not his skill set.  


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