Thursday, January 24, 2013

Braves trade for other Upton: Prado and Delgado out

I'll start by saying I expected the trade for Upton to happen. I expected Delgado to be a part of that trade along with some other young prospects. I did NOT expect them to include our best hitter in Prado as part of the deal. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it shocked me. Why are we doing this? What do we have to gain? So, in any situation where I have questions, I decided to wrap myself in the comforting blanket of statistics.

Justin Upton is a 25 year old outfielder out of Arizona with both power and speed. In a 6 year major league career, Upton has hit over 100 homers and stolen 80 bases. He's a lifetime .475 slugger with an OBP around .355 over a regular season. He was a silver slugger winner in 2011, an all-star, and came in 4th in the NL MVP voting. Defensively, Upton had 6 outfield assists, a .984 fielding percentage, and only 5 errors in the outfield all season. Here's what concerns me. He's a .259 hitter in 2012 with RISP, and he struck out 120 times.

So, just comparing apples to apples, here's what we're moving for those two. Prado only had 69 Ks to Upton's 120. He had 10 homers to Upton's 17 last year. In terms of lifetime average you're trading Prado's .295 for Upton's .280, but you're also getting a better OBP in Upton at .355 to Prado's .345 OBP. So if you just like the idea of people getting on base, it's a step up with Upton. Prado also has a lower slugging rate at .435 to Upton's .475, so you have a huge upgrade in power. However, Prado has 308 strikeouts in 683 games, and Upton has 694 strikeouts in 713 games. I mean, holy lord! It's completely bang or bust for Upton. You're hoping as a GM a lot of that is location and youth, but our club wasn't exactly short on whiffs already.

Notice, I haven't even discussed the other guys. Mostly because they aren't really important. We were going to dump Delgado because he proved he can't hack it consistently on our roster at the major league level. We were going to unload some prospects you've never heard of for the most part. We were going to hold on to Bettencourt and Teheran like grim death. So in that regard, I don't really care about the rest of what we gave up. We do have to discuss the other portion of the trade, which is Chris Johnson at 3rd base.

Chris will probably end up in a platoon (dear god, every Braves fan's least favorite word) with Juan Francisco at 3rd at the start of the season. Barring a disaster, CJ should win that battle by mid-season and take over the slot for good. Juan's a decent left handed guy in the lineup to put in as a change of pace, but he's dreck against lefty pitchers. Johnson is a .281 hitter with a .295 average against righties. His OBP is much better than Juan's (.326 v .278) so you hope he can continue to get on base and produce the occasional multi-base hit. Juan was also very prone to the strikeout with 70 in 192 ABs, while Johnson is 132 Ks in 488 ABS. He can be an actual improvement in that regard, shocking as that high K number is for both guys. In reality, you can't compare him to Chipper, because Chipper is gone and a hall of famer. You can only compare Johnson to the pieces you have, and what you planned to improve. In the regard of Chris Johnson over Francisco, the defense is going to be a disaster either way. CJ had 19 errors last year (with Uggla out there, this scares the hell out of me trying to turn a long DP). Francisco had 6 errors in a third of the games. Both are just awful. Get ready for some facepalms trying to field the ball down the line.

What you're left with is a trade about moving Prado for a younger, currently less expensive guy who is under contract until 2015. Prado was about to go into arbitration, and he was due to go for at least $10M minimum in free agency for 2014. For the kind of production the Braves want out of the outfield, they weren't going to pay him in the double digits unless he was hitting bombs. The downside is that Prado was a .275 RISP hitter, the best on the team next to Michael Bourn. Guess what? Both of those guys are gone. So much for clutch hitting in the summer time. We've added two guys who will produce 120 more strikeouts than their counterparts in 2011 over the season. With a new lineup of Simmons, Uggla, Freeman, McCann, Johnson, Upton, Upton, and Heyward, you're looking at my projection of 1,300+ strikeouts over a regular season. That's about 8 a game. Can you feel the breeze? We better hope that improves, or the boys of summer are going to be playing in front of hundreds of fans.

Go Braves!