While many eyes in Monday's Atlanta Braves win over the Cincinnati Reds were on rookie catcher Evan Gattis making his debut in left field, the guy to his left handling center field continued to struggle and anger fantasy owners. B.J. Upton struck out in his first four at-bats and nearly made it 5-for-5 in the eighth inning, drawing a walk on a full count. While Upton's proclivity for swinging and missing is nothing new -- though never quite to this extent -- he still hits for power, steals bases and needs to remain owned in all fantasy leagues. If one of your league mates has had enough, well, you know what to do.
We all know how much Upton is absolutely killing your fantasy team, because many of you keep tweeting and posting it in various places. But first of all, it's not true, and second, Upton's track record is too positive to send him to the waiver wire the first week of May so you can add the likes of Ryan Raburn, Matt Joyce and Garrett Jones. Those are a few of the most added outfielders in ESPN standard leagues, and while I understand the instant gratification aspect of fantasy, it's a six-month season and Upton wasn't a top-50 option in ESPN average live drafts by accident. Upton hit 28 home runs and stole 31 bases a year ago. In 2011, he hit 23 home runs and stole 36 bases. He's 28, in his prime.
In other words, we know what Upton can do, and while it's not quite what was expected from him when he was the second overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft, it's certainly not so bad that you would rather have Cleveland Indians veteran Raburn, who is on a crazy hot streak but has a dubious track record and is likely to lose playing time later this week when Michael Bourn returns from the disabled list.
Some of you don't want any part of a player like Upton, who struggles so much in batting average, but I'll take a .240 mark -- and it's been in that range four consecutive seasons, not down at Adam Dunn levels -- when the power/speed combination warrants it. Upton won't hit .148 all season. His BABIP will rise from its .197 mark. He'll hit better than .158 against left-handed pitching. His incredible 32.8 percent strikeout rate will drop. Upton's contact rates aren't particularly out of whack from previous baselines, and his line drive rate should rise.
Nothing good came from Upton's performance Monday, but the first week of May is just too early to cut a veteran player who has proved himself for multiple years. Remember, two seasons ago Braves second baseman Dan Uggla struggled mightily with his new team, hitting below the .200 mark in April, May and June. His second half was considerably better.
Upton doesn't play middle infield anymore -- remember the early days when he did? -- but he and Indians outfielder Drew Stubbs are the only players in baseball to hit 14 or more home runs and steal 30 or more bases each of the past three seasons, and Upton is the superior player.
When is it finally time to give up on Upton? Give me another month, at least. And even then I'll just bench him, not cut him. He's down to 96.3 percent owned. While I paid attention to Gattis on Monday, as he singled in a run in four at-bats and generally butchered left field -- he's not long for the position, folks -- and younger brother Justin Upton continued to thrive in the No. 3 lineup spot, B.J. Upton was a mess. Don't worry, the Braves aren't giving up. There's no chance Jason Heyward, upon his return in a few weeks from an appendectomy, will move to center field so Gattis can continue to handle left. Not happening. The Braves will be patient. So should you.
Box score bits (NL): I'm not selling Braves closer Craig Kimbrel either, but he allowed two more hits Monday -- really, it was three, but left fielder Jordan Schafer's trapped catch was missed -- and had blown two of his previous three saves before Monday. Always consider trading a top closer for a lesser one plus offense. ... Braves catcher Brian McCann was hitless in four at-bats with a walk in his season debut. Still, he'll play more than Gattis in a likely platoon. ... Reds leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch for the 11th time this season. While those in OBP formats appreciate the help, if it gets him hurt, it's not worth it. ... Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Chris Capuano came off the DL Monday and did not pitch well, though his defense, and notably left fielder Carl Crawford, betrayed him. Still, even NL-only owners can't use Capuano these days. ... What's gotten into Chicago Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman? It's one thing to toss a complete game and strike out 12 San Diego Padres last week. On Monday, he threw seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against the Texas Rangers, his former team. I'm still not buying outside of NL-only leagues. ... Remember when Anthony Rizzo owners wanted to give up on him? His homer and four RBIs Monday put him on pace for 46 and 127. And his batting average is up to .262. He's terrific.
Box score bits (AL): Boston Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz saw his pristine 1.01 ERA rise to 1.60 when he permitted four runs over six innings, but this wasn't a pounding and had nothing to do with accusations of him adding substances to his pitches. He did strike out nine. ... The Red Sox placed closer Andrew Bailey on the DL Monday afternoon then watched closer Joel Hanrahan blow the save in the ninth inning and a few batters later leave with right forearm tightness. Look for a DL stint for him as well (his second of 2013). I'd add Koji Uehara over Junichi Tazawa, and Alfredo Aceves shouldn't be ruled out for potential saves. ... Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland blew his second save of the season Monday, but don't all add Kelvin Herrera at once. He allowed his sixth home run of the young season to lose the game in the 11th inning. ... Speaking of homers, Oakland Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker was tagged for four more Monday in Cleveland then admitted he has been battling a sore neck for weeks. Move on, if you already haven't.