One of the most disappointing seasons for the LA Angels last season belonged to Justin Upton.
While the left fielder wasn’t totally at fault for his down year after injuring his toe during the LA Angels Spring Training Freeway Series against the Dodgers, it was a season that left a poor taste in the mouths of Halo fans. Chants to trade Upton are at an all time high, but the former All Star could be in store for a bounce back season in 2020.
This is as clear-cut as a comeback season can get for a player. Having a season derailed by injury is always hard to watch for fans, especially when the player is getting paid as much as Justin Upton. However, Upton isn’t an “injury prone” player, like most Halo fans will tell you online. He averaged 150 games in the three years prior to 2019, and last season was only the second time this decade he failed to play at least 149 games.
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The injury Upton suffered isn’t an easy one to get over in the middle of a season, either. Turf toe may sound ticky tack or like a soft injury, but it has an effect on every action a baseball player does. Playing the field, swinging a bat, running the bases, those are all things that can aggravate the injury. It could also be what led to Upton’s tendonitis in his knee at the end of the season.
So yes, he had an injury plagued campaign. However, that does not mean Upton should be traded or that his career is entering the final stages.
Upton is scheduled to make $21.2 million the next three seasons. That seems like a huge number, but using FanGraph’s value calculator, we can see that it really isn’t that bad of a number for the left fielder. In 2017 and 2018, Upton was worth a combined $65.7 million on the field. Last season was obviously a wash, but the contract amount doesn’t look as bad when given some context.
Justin Upton posted a 92 wRC+ last season. The league average is 100, so Upton wasn’t even that awful of a hitter in 2019, it was just magnified by the big salary. He has averaged 120 wRC+ for his career, and was even better the two seasons prior to his injury, posting an average 130 wRC+.
On top of that, Upton had a career-low batting average on balls in play despite his hard hit percentage staying the same as in years past. This points towards some bad luck contributing to Upton’s poor 2019 numbers as well.
That’s the number that makes me believe in Upton’s ability to rebound at the plate. Before the injuries, Upton wasn’t trending downward, he was trending upward. At the plate, Justin Upton was finding more success than he had throughout the majority of his career. Streakiness aside, his numbers at the end of each season were high quality.
So my final words to Angels fans are as follows: Don’t give up on Justin Upton yet. Trading him isn’t an option, and he is slated to rebound excellently in 2020.