The LA Angels have had many reasons they haven’t had success like they were hoping for so far this season. If they want to climb back into the playoff race Justin Upton will be a key person that will make this happen.
The LA Angels started the season winning 13 of their first 16 games. However, since then they have gone 36-45 and now sit 49-48 and nine games behind Seattle in the wild-card race. Justin Upton was expected to provide protection for Mike Trout in the line-up and form a mini-murderers row with Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani.
Unfortunately Mike Trout has held up his end of the bargain, Pujols and Upton have not, and Ohtani missed close to a month of the season so he hasn’t been able to make as much of impact as expected. In the second half if Ohtani can stay healthy and Upton can get hot and Pujols be a little above average the Angels could climb back into the race.
So far Upton is hitting .251 with 19 home runs and driving in 54 runs. This is not bad production, but the Angels were looking for more. Upton is a career .268 hitter so he is not that far off. The biggest issue is Upton’s ability to come through in the clutch. Upton is only hitting .184 with five homers and driving in 36 runs. Teams have been walking Mike Trout intentionally to get to Justin Upton and although he has driven in 36 runs, but if came through even at a .250 clip he would have well over 70 runs batted in and the Angels would probably have at least five more wins.
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Albert Pujols has been much better with runners in scoring position, but could still be better as well. Pujols is batting .304 with three homers and 34 RBIs with runners in scoring position. Pujols still could be better in the fact that he is only hitting .215 with nobody on base.
Upton though has been one of the players the Angels will need to get going in order to make a run for the wild-card. While being a candidate for MVP may not be something that we can expect from Upton, we should be able to get 35 homers and 100 RBIs over the few seasons and if Upton can do so this year the Angels will benefit greatly.
Mid-Season Grade: C+
The reason for Upton getting a C+ is simple. He has given the Angels some much needed production from the left field spot that has been a revolving door for the Angels for the past 10 seasons since Garret Anderson left via free agency. However, with the money the Angels are paying Upton, approximately 20 million per season, the expectations are higher. So while Upton’s numbers are adequate the Angels need him to be the second guy in what should be a lethal 1-2 punch with Mike Trout. This will help Trout continue to get some pitches to hit and make it harder for teams to walk him intentionally or pitch around him.
This will also set the table for Albert Pujols and possibly Shohei Ohtani. We will have to see what happens in the future.