It feels as if it was in the baseball gods’ plans to absolutely curse Upton in 2021. In his first 38 games of this year, he was hitting a terrible .188/.271/.391. He had eight home runs which was nice, but there weren’t enough quality at-bats to justify the $23 million he’s making this year.
Maddon made the decision to slot him in the leadoff spot. It paid off big time, as Upton hit .326/.420/.600 (1.020 OPS) along with six home runs, an incredible 25 runs scored, and 15 RBI (as a leadoff hitter) in 25 games. Then, after a month, he got hurt.
Justin Upton was clearly impacted by his back injury for the LA Angels this year.
Justin Upton missed a month for the LA Angels after that month of red-hot leadoff hitting. The back tightness got the best of him, and it proved to curse the rest of his season after that.
Even when Upton came back on July 22nd, Upton really struggled for the rest of the year. He hit .126/.200/.242 (.442 OPS) with just three home runs, nine RBI, and seven runs scored in 26 games. It was maybe the most frustrating year of Upton’s career.
Just as things not only started looking up, but started looking special, injuries had to completely derail the rest of his year.
He had good home run power this season, hitting 17 home runs in 89 games. He didn’t, however, have much else.
He finished the year with a line of .211/.296/.409 (.705 OPS), along with 41 RBI and 47 runs scored. His wRC+ was actually tied for just seventh on the team at 92.
His 0.4 fWAR was pretty uninspiring, and it mattes due to his contract. I also think he could be better than his 29.9% K%.
Maddon likes Upton a lot, and already has guaranteed that Upton will “be in the mix with all these other guys” for outfield playing time next year.
They’ve had him practice at first base a little bit this year, so maybe he could also snag playing time on Jared Walsh’s off days. If they go easier on Shohei Ohtani’s offensive workload next year, Upton could maybe DH a little bit too. The Angels have admitted that Ohtani’s a little fatigued by his workload this season.
Growing up in Phoenix, I used to love going to the ballpark and watching the former No. 1 overall pick be one of the better players in all of baseball. Unfortunately, however, his injuries betrayed him after proving that he still had it for a whole month where he helped carry this team. As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t know what Upton’s future with the Angels will look like.