You might recall Dan Szymborski, with whom we spoke in October on the matter of Brian McCann’s future worth. Szymborski, who works for ESPN, is the man to call on the matter of projecting a baseball player’s season. His ZiPS system is considered an industry standard, and not just among the sabermetric set — big-league teams employ similar algorithms. Which bring us — rough segue here — to B.J. Upton of your Atlanta Braves.
Szymborski thinks the elder Upton brother will be less awful in 2014 than in 2013. (Granted, it would be impossible to be more awful.) He believes B.J. Upton will be something approximating an average big-league player, which sounds like thin gruel until we recall that Upton was among the absolute worst players in the majors last season.
Writing for ESPN Insider, here’s Szymborski:
This season will be better than last, but just how much will Upton improve? The good news is that Upton remains a talented player, is still in his 20s and has a long history of being able to hit major league pitching. He’s not going to hit for a high batting average — even in his better seasons Upton carried a batting average in the .240 range — but he’ll hit for enough power and continue to play solid defense in center, enough to return him to the ranks of a league-average player. After a minus-1.8 WAR season, simply putting up a 2-WAR season represents a four-win swing from last year.
Szymborski’s ZiPS system has Upton hitting .231 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs. That still wouldn’t constitute $75 million worth of production, but it would beat the heck out of the .184, 9 and 26 of last season.
For the record, Szymborski puts Upton atop his list of six bounceback candidates for 2014. The second name on it? Albert Pujols.
Coming in Sunday’s AJC: Why the Braves’ offseason hasn’t been as bad as all that.