From 2009-18, Justin Upton was a solid, arguably underrated weapon at the plate.
He posted a .831 OPS over those 10 seasons, averaging 27 home runs and 84 RBI, collecting MVP votes in four of those seasons and also earning four trips to the All-Star Game. Additionally, Upton was a bastion of health, averaging 148 games played.
The last two seasons, however, Upton has fallen off the map, both for the Angels and for fantasy managers alike.
In 2019 he was sabotaged by injury, playing just 63 games because of turf toe, quad and knee ailments. He missed some time in 2020, too, with wrist and head injuries. In those two campaigns, Upton managed just a .210/.301/.418 batting line.
Well, Upton is finally healthy again this spring, and he’s aiming to prove he still has something left in the tank.
On Monday, Upton hit not one, but two balls over the batter’s eye in center field at American Family Fields of Phoenix. The veteran outfielder has gone deep three times already in his first five Cactus League tilts and is 5-for-10 at the plate overall.
Upton told reporters last month ahead of spring training that, because he was healthy, he “had a normal offseason and got to go through my full process,” adding that it was “my first normal offseason in a while.”
Even amidst his overall struggles at the dish last season, Upton still sported a 91.7 mph exit velocity which ranked in the 87th percentile. He also finished with a late-season surge, posting a 1.003 OPS with six home runs over his final 22 contests.
Upton appears in line to bat fifth in the Angels’ lineup behind David Fletcher, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. There should be plenty of RBI opportunities.
Upton is also “only” 33, which is hard to believe about a guy heading into his 15th big league season. The strong finishing kick in 2020 and a regular routine over the winter have him looking like a guy who might have a chance to bounce back in 2021. With a current ADP of 337 in NFBC leagues, it’s not going to cost you much to find out.
Could Price be Tagged as Reliever?
Monday was a big day for David Price.
Because he opted out of the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns, Price hadn’t pitched in a game in just over a year when he toed the rubber in the fourth inning of a Cactus League game versus the White Sox. He didn’t show any rust, though, needing just 11 pitches to cruise through a perfect frame, recording one strikeout along the way.
However, it’s what was said after the game which turned out to be much more notable.
“Right before we signed Trevor [Bauer], I reached out to [Dodgers president of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] and said, ‘If it happens, I'm willing to do whatever you guys need me to do. That's not a problem for me,'” Price said. “'So, just keep me in the loop. And let me know and I'll be ready for whatever.’”
The comment by itself doesn’t necessarily raise any eyebrows. Price has a reputation for being a good teammate, and he’s offering to be of service any way he can. Of course Price is going to be in the rotation, right, manager Dave Roberts?
“I can see him pitching in any role that we have for him and David, being the pro and the teammate that he is, also voiced that whatever role that we see is best for the Dodgers in 2021 is what he wants to do,” Roberts said. “So that’s just a credit to him, but our job still is to build him up for whatever potentially could happen and continue to give us some options.”
Well, that didn’t exactly clear things up.
“The goal isn't to get any particular starter to 100 pitches, there's really no set number,” Roberts added. “Like I said from the very beginning, we have seven, eight starters and we're going to build those guys up. And then whatever that looks like, and they all might be a little bit different, but we still see it from that same lens.”
Nope, still not clear, Dave.
We all know that the Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer are givens to open the season in the rotation. Price had seemed to be the obvious No. 4, with Julio Urias having a leg up to be the No. 5 and Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin on the outside looking in.
That may very well be how things ultimately play out, but when it comes to how the Dodgers handle their rotation, we’ve come to expect the unexpected. Keep that in mind this spring when you consider taking a hurler from the defending champs.
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American League Quick Hits: Athletics closer Trevor Rosenthal has been shut down due to a slight groin strain and there is no timetable for when he will resume throwing … The Astros officially announced the signing of Jake Odorizzi to a two-year contract on Monday … Carlos Santana went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBI as the Royals beat the Athletics 10-3 in a seven-inning Cactus League game on Monday … Yusei Kikuchi worked three innings of one-run ball in his second Cactus League start Monday afternoon against the Indians, touching 97 mph on the radar gun … Zach Plesac threw three scoreless frames in a Cactus League start Monday versus the Mariners … Nick Madrigal (shoulder) played five innings at second base and went 0-for-2 at the plate in his Cactus League debut Monday versus the Dodgers … Sean Murphy (lung) took coaches' batting practice on Monday … Shed Long (shin) doesn't have a timetable to get into Cactus League action.
National League Quick Hits: Julio Urias pitched three perfect innings in his second Cactus League outing Monday against the White Sox … Lorenzo Cain has been shut down for a week due to a lingering quad issue … According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mets and Francisco Lindor are expected to begin extension talks this week … The Brewers announced the signing of Jackie Bradley to a one-year contract Monday … Javier Baez finished 2-for-3 with a three-run homer in the Cubs' 9-0 Cactus League defeat of the Rangers on Monday … Kyle Freeland pitched three scoreless frames in a Cactus League start Monday afternoon against the Reds … Tejay Antone struck out three batters over three scoreless innings in a Cactus League start Monday against the Rockies … Zach Davies delivered three scoreless frames in a Cactus League start Monday versus the Rangers … Stephen Strasburg (hand) is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday … Jose Martinez will undergo surgery this weekend to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and is expected to be sidelined four months … Caleb Smith worked three scoreless innings with three strikeout in his Cactus League start Monday afternoon against the Giants … Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that Jon Lester (thyroid) is back in camp and "looks great”.