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Who Should I Draft? Justin Upton or Alex Rios

While there’s some question as to who’s better between Carl Crawford and Carlos Gonzalez or between Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday, there’s little doubt that those are the top four outfielders. The outfielders after them are a different story.

Enter Justin Upton and Alex Rios.

Upton is one of baseball’s top young players. It’s no surprise then that when Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers put his name on the trading block a few months back almost every team made an offer. Towers wisely pulled him off the block after he realized he couldn’t risk trading away someone as talented as Upton. Rios had a career year in his first full season with the White Sox. He’ll look to continue to prove that his disastrous season in 2009, in which the Blue Jays placed him on waivers and didn’t even demand a player in return, was an anomaly.

Today we’ll decide which outfielder should be drafted first.

Each player is assigned a grade for each of the five standard offensive categories plus a few extra I felt were important to factor. Grades are based on my expectations for the season and take into account both the player’s expected performance relative to the entire player pool and relative to the position he plays at. Grades were averaged using the standard 4.0 GPA scale to provide a cumulative “Professor’s Grade.”

[table id=63 /]

The Case for Upton

After batting .300 with 26 HR and 20 SB in 2009, Upton was destined for stardom in 2010. Unfortunately, he failed to reach 20 HR or 20 SB and saw his batting average dip to .273 before a shoulder injury forced him to miss most of September.

It’s easy to forget that Upton is still just 23 years old. The former number one overall pick has all the tools you look for in an elite fantasy player. Not counting the freakishly strong Mike Stanton, Upton has the most power of any major leaguer under the age of 24. He’s also athletic enough to steal 20-plus bases, a feat he has already accomplished in his young career. As if that’s not tantalizing enough, he’ll be batting out of the three-hole in a hitter’s ballpark.

Despite Upton’s disappointing stats last year, there were signs of encouragement. His walk rate was 11.2 percent, up from 9.4 percent in his breakout 2009 season. It’s rare for a player as young as Upton to show such a knack for drawing walks and it will only help increase his R and SB potential. Upton also improved his line drive rate and GB/FB ratio which bodes well for an increase in power and batting average.

The sky is the limit for Upton and he certainly has the potential to produce first round numbers.

The Case for Rios

Rios truly is a five category producer. He was one of three players to reach 20 HR and 30 SB with Hanley Ramirez and Drew Stubbs being the others. It was the second time Rios reached both of those marks and the first time he did so in the same season. Rios is also one of the few power speed players that won’t hurt your batting average. If you take out his 2009 season, Rios hasn’t batted less than .284 since 2005. Furthermore, Rios plays in a hitter friendly lineup. He’s surrounded by talented players such as Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez. While he doesn’t have the same potential as Upton, he has shown more consistency and durability.

Who Should I Draft?

Upton and Rios are close in value but I believe Upton is the better pick. From the chart above you can see that they each have the advantage in three categories but Upton has the better overall grade. You can also see that Upton has a distinct power advantage, a skill set that is becoming harder to find. The only real categorical advantage that Rios has is speed, but Upton will still contribute there for you. While Rios is definitely a safe pick due to his consistency, Upton’s potential is far too great to ignore. He’s already one of the best young players in the game and has much room to grow.

It’s for that reason that I’m taking Upton over Rios.


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Updated: December 20, 2011 — 12:55 am
  • I keep hearing the word potenial when associated with Justin Upton, but he does have a lot of growing up to do .. Slamming his bat down when he strikes out is just one of many, umpires do not like that and you will never get the borderline call when you do that. I watched Justin hit a slam into left field and because he stood at the plate admirering the hit it failed to reach the seats and hit the wall for a single had he ran he would have coasted into second. Also like his brother he seems to have that loafing gene, there was a reason that Kevin Towers had him on the block… Just so you know…….

    • Mike

      The incident in which Upton admired his hit and ended up only on first happened 2 seasons ago and is the only incident of this kind to happen to him. It would be moronic and unfair to call him a loafer like his brother. He appears very humble and has a much different personality than his brother. The comparison with Rios is an absolute joke. Rios as of July 28 is the worst player in baseball. He’s reached his peak. Rios is one of the most weak minded players in all of baseball. He often carries his hitting troubles into the outfield with him and is OFTEN embarrassed by not hustling. Upton will be one of the truly elite players for the next 12 years and Rios…well, the way he’s going his career may be in jeopardy.

      • Mike just a just quick response to your attempt to act like I had no clue what I WAS talking about . The incident of J-Up only getting a single was last year when AJ was in AZ or had recently left. The reason I know this is that I had just changed my screen name to Pitch 1 from Porchdog.. So, it was about a year ago and my fellow bloggers and I said that if J-UP doesn’t get it this year it may become to late for him not to turn into his brother. However, I am happy to say that I am glad that he has caught on and is now using all of the tools that God gave him and he has also become much more patient at the plate. I don’t know why this post is only now being looked at or responded too , of course that is not your fault. Your responce about Rios can not be directed at me as I don’t know this player to ever have responed in any way about him..

  • It would be a real shame for Upton’s talent to go to waste like his brother’s has. Still, you can’t ignore what his capabilities are and he’s still very young, which gives us hope that he can still grow up and mature. Talent *usually* wins out in these situations and he definitely has a lot of that. Here’s to hoping he puts it all together!

  • Agreed George, he has done a good job.

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