This post is a result of the news today that B. J. Upton lost his arbitration hearing with the Tampa Bay Rays. He will receive $3 million for playing in 2010 instead of the $3.3 million he was asking for. Perhaps for baseball players, $300,000 doesn't seem like much. But if you prorate that over 52 weeks in a year, that's $5769 a week more he could have made. There were no reports on how Upton took the defeat, but if he is sensible, he shouldn't be upset. He didn't exactly have a banner year.
Which brings up the question of whether Upton will ever be the kind of player that everyone thought he was going to be. Upton will turn 26 during the 2010 season, so he is still young and is entering into his prime years as a player. Upton certainly gave us all a peak of what he could be when he put up the following line in his first full season in 2007: .300/.386/.508. He also hit 24 homers that year and drove in 82. He hasn't come close to those numbers since.
In 2008, Upton's line sank to: .273/.383/.401. He did walk 97 times, which was good. But his power shriveled. Last year was even worse: .241/.313/.373. And hidden in his final stats is the fact that he was abominable on the road. Upton only had one good month last year and that was June. The rest of the year (except for a little surge in Sept/Oct.) was awful.
So what is the answer? The Fan has a feeling that he had better produce this coming year or the Bay Rays will find someone else. Upton does have two things going for him that are not dependent on his hitting. He again stole over 40 bases and he again played above league average center field. But those are little consolation for a team that committed to him with the second overall pick of the 2002 draft.
There were reports that part of Upton's struggles resulted from a weak shoulder that was operated on between the 2008 and 2009 seasons. A bad shoulder could certainly curtail some of his ability. But you would have to assume that he is now a year removed from that situation and should be entering 2010 at full strength.
Upton has always looked like an exceptional talent. He's always had great bat speed. He knows how to take a walk. He's fast. He is athletic. Now he just needs to pull it all together. Time is running out if he ever hopes to became the sensational baseball player that everyone assumed he would become.