Last Wednesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks locked up Justin Upton with a 6-year contract extension. With that type of investment, the D-backs clearly believe Upton’s 2009 production is going to become the norm.
In his breakout season, Upton batted .300 with 26 home runs, 86 RBI, 86 runs and 20 steals in 138 games. Early 2010 projections from FanGraphs and CBS Sports indicate that most believe this season production from Upton will be very similar – statistically – to last season.
Unlike his brother, Tampa Bay outfielder B.J., Justin doesn’t seem to be overvalued by most fantasy baseballers. Sure, some people will reach for Upton in a draft because of his potential – Mock Draft Central (MDC) shows that Upton was drafted as high as no. 15 overall in one draft. While too many people believe B.J.’s value as an outfielder should be as high as it was when he was 2B-eligible, Justin’s development as a pure outfielder likely keeps his fantasy value in check.
According to MDC, Upton’s 2010 draft position should be around pick 25. In that slot, Upton is the 6th outfielder off the board – trailing Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Holliday.
Looking over that list of outfielders, is there any reason to suspect that Upton, Holliday, and Kemp could statistically be comparable this season? Upton will need to play a full 162-game schedule and produce at his 2009 pace (he missed 24 games last year), but more than 20 steals is easily within reach for Upton if he’s healthy, and 30 home runs also seems feasible.
With Crawford and Ellsbury clearly being overvalued for their base stealing potential, Upton would seem to be a value pick if he can be selected in round 3 or later. At that point in a draft, feel free to select him with confidence.