It’s always dangerous to assume everyone else is the same as you are. Just because you don’t give a shit about poems doesn’t mean other people don’t give a shit about poems. You want to be careful not to assume too much of your own preferences and experiences. That being said, I’m pretty comfortable with one assumption — I’ve barely paid attention to the Padres, and I feel like most people have barely paid attention to the Padres. That’s not to say no one has paid attention to the Padres, but those who have are probably few and far between. You know how it goes. Apparently Austin Hedges is leading all Triple-A hitters in slugging percentage by like a million points. I learned this Tuesday morning. Austin Hedges? Whatever.
About a certain Padres player, then. Apologies to those of you for whom this isn’t new news, but something has quietly been taking place. Remember when the Padres picked up Melvin Upton Jr.? They did it in the Craig Kimbrel trade, and they took him on as a salary dump. The Braves just wanted to be rid of him, and right away, the Padres put Upton on the DL. He did come back and play, eventually. He played well. And he hasn’t…stopped…playing well. Away from the spotlight, away from the pressure, Upton has rediscovered his talent. It sure looks to me like Melvin Upton Jr. is back.
The Braves signed Upton after the 2012 season. In the table below, you’ll see three lines of numbers. You see the three years of Upton leading up to free agency. You see his two catastrophic years with the Braves. And you see his past year as a Padre.
|2010 – 2012||1883||10%||26%||0.194||109||4.6||2.0||3.5|
|2013 – 2014||1028||10%||32%||0.116||66||1.8||1.7||-0.1|
|Past 1 Year||509||7%||27%||0.177||110||5.7||3.5||3.7|
I’ll be damned. Recent Upton isn’t the exact same as earlier Upton, but the profile is awfully close. Strikeout-prone power hitter with athletic, all-around skills. Upton, back then, looked like a borderline star. For the past year or so, he’s played like a borderline star. You can never forget about a dip like the dip he had, and it’s not like Upton would forgive himself for that or anything, but the player Upton looks like now is the player the Braves wanted to sign. He didn’t hit the ground running, but Upton is working to salvage the contract he agreed to. He lived through a professional nightmare, and he didn’t let it destroy him.
Over the weekend, Upton mashed a walk-off dinger against the impossible Andrew Miller. In the past year, Upton has clocked in with a 36% hard-hit rate, matching Jay Bruce and Andrew McCutchen. The Braves got burned. You do have to wonder how much another team would trust Upton, at this point. But he’s made himself appealing again, at least to some extent, and his contract extends through next year, when he’ll earn around $17 million. What’s crazy now is it’s not too hard to imagine Upton actually being worth that salary. All he’d have to be is something like an average outfielder, and lately he’s been clearing that bar. Clearing it easily! Melvin Upton Jr. could be a legitimate trade target. The Padres might not have to eat too much money. They got a bad break with the Jon Jay injury, but this career reversal is working out.
Upton’s back. If he’s not all the way back, he’s seemingly most of the way back. That’s astonishing in and of itself, and you could write a book about all this. Hell of a story, Melvin Upton Jr.’s. Another time, we can celebrate how Upton has found himself. For now, it’s July, and Upton is a talented veteran on a go-nowhere team. Front offices are going to call about Upton. Front offices are going to want Upton. Upton, once again, ought to be wanted. What a game this is.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.