There's tons of Rays-related discussions going on lately, but one that gets my attention the most is our views of one-time top prospect- B.J. Upton.
I've posted before about my gripes with Rays fans who believe that we should instantly take the best available trade offer for Rocco(while his value is at it's highest) and slide Upton into the CF, where many believe that he could easily duplicate and surpass Rocco in terms of production and fielding prowess. I don't see an automatic transition from "bad infielder"-to-"above average outfielder", especially after looking at Fonzie's fielding stats with the Nats last year(where his Error-to-Assist Ratio was 1:1).
I could go on for awhile about my opinions about my problems with that thinking, but that's not the purpose of this post.
The purpose of my post, actually, is to determine if the Rays are over-rating or under-rating Upton's potential.
I know all about Upton's potential that came with him on Draft Day, where he was already being compared to Alex Rodriguez and being called a "once-in-a-lifetime" SS prospect. He proved to be A-Rod Lite, all-bat-no-glove, from 2002 to 2004(when he received his first call-up). He surged through the minors and received his call-up at the young age of 19, even though his fielding was deplorable as it is today. Lou seen that Upton's glove, not bat, needed work and Upton was sent back to AAA for the entire 2005 season. He continued to put up good offensive stats as a 20 year old in AAA. No call-up was given, more due to the organization's turmoil with Lou "quitting" and the fan revolt towards the "about to be relieved" ownership. Upton, again, was kept in the minors in 2006 to work on his fielding and the NDRO chose to have Ozzie Smith work with Upton in relieving his error problems and hire special instructor Jimy Williams to work with Upton as well. Upton, at times, looked to be improving but also had the same boneheaded mistakes of the past. The NDRO managed to talk Upton into moving to 3B, for the betterment of the team, and he accepted it and got a call-up and played 3B just as bad as he played SS. He appeared to have regressed offensively in 2006, in both AAA and MLB, but had a hot stretch to end the 2006 season.
With the Rays offseason signing of Akinori Iwamura, questions began to arise where Upton would "fit" with Iwamura's natural position being 3B. Adding fuel to the fire, Maddon and Chastain articles regarding the Rays infield didn't include Upton at all or didn't give any positive opinions of Upton and the 2007 season. Some of that firestorm was put out when it was made known that Iwamura's versatility didn't give him a "set" position and Upton was still "in the Rays plans."
Here's where Rays fans and you readers come into the equation...
- Did we "spin" this to keep Upton's value at it's already low level and not have it decrease any lower, or is Upton really in our plans?
- Does Upton's bat potential and his "pre-prime years" age give the Rays a reason to keep him longer? Is he worth the wait and time?
- Due to his "superstar" potential, should we find a way to fit him in the line-up(even if it means another position move and the trade of a player that is already solid there)?
- How badly did the Rays Ownership, currently and of the past, screw Upton up? Did we rush him too fast for his own good and coddle him so much that we turned him into a primadonna that's unwilling to better the team?
- Should we bite the bullet and trade Upton for pitching, even if it means that we receive an above-pitching prospect that is a year's away or a pitcher that's already in the majors that doesn't have the pitching upside that Upton has as a hitter?