Braves Outfield: From First to Worst?

Braves center fielder B.J. Upton

B.J. Upton has started to come around lately

When the Atlanta Braves won the 1991 National League West after finishing last in 1990, the slogan folks in Braves Country used when describing the ’91 team was “Worst to First.”

After the Braves acquired Justin and B.J. Upton, to go along with incumbent right fielder, Jason Heyward, many baseball analysts speculated that the Braves could potentially have the best starting outfield in baseball in 2013.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way, not anywhere close.

I’m being facetious by asking in the title of this story if the Braves outfield is the worst in baseball.  They are not the worst outfield in baseball, but they are close.  They are producing far below the level that everybody expected.

B.J. Upton has been one of the worst hitters in baseball.  He has come on a little bit lately, but his .169 average, .262 on-base-percentage and .573 slugging percentage make him the worst or close to the worst hitting outfielder in baseball so far this season.  His outfield play has been uninspired at times, too.

Jason Heyward won the Gold Glove for his defensive play in the outfield last season and he’s still solid in that facet, but he hasn’t hit much this season.  He’s hitting .219, with a decent .322 on-base-percentage, but a  utility infielder-like .348 slugging percentage.  Like B.J. he’s hit a little more lately, but he’s a long ways away from being a force in the line-up.

Justin Upton is the only one of the three that has put up good offensive numbers this season.  But after winning the NL Player of the Month Award in April, Justin hit .211 in May and .214 so far in June with only 3 homers and 15 RBI.  His defense, like his brother, has been uninspired.

I fully expect all three of this very talented players to turn their seasons around and be major contributors the rest of the way.  But the Braves starting outfield has been a huge disappointment so far this season.  Lot of money spent, very little production.

Profile photo of Jim Hart About Jim Hart

Jim has covered the Atlanta Braves since 2008 for local and national broadcast news organizations. He also appears regularly talking Braves baseball on WCCP-FM in Clemson, South Carolina, and the ESPN Radio affiliate, 1420 Sports in St. Augustine, Florida.

  • Lee

    Wow….Once again, you’ve nailed it! However, using the term “uninspired” is quite generous. There have been too many moments where one of the Uptons has looked like an amateur. When you have the speed & bat of Jordan Shafer, why would you not play him full time? Even Reed Johnson would be a better pick. I think Fredi has already made his picks for the starting line-up, but why Jordan Shafer isn’t one of them is baffling!

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Lee, I am a generous guy. :) Schafer sure made his case to be a regular with his performance today.

      • Lee

        Let’s hope someone is listening to our expertise :)

  • shamedfan

    Crazy to pay 75M to a career .252 hitter. I expected BJ to play just like he has with the Bat. What I was not ready for was how bad his Defense has been this year. Would of been nice to beat the Gnats to get Span last winter, rather then worry about getting BJ before the Filthies got him. It all comes down to Boras and his clown of a asking price of Bourn after the season. that really put Wren is a tight spot of needing to make sure he was not left out of the Outfield race last year. Remember that both out rivals were in the same market the Braves were in. I just want to see BJ play better D because I am tired of hearing Tampa fans say, oh but wait because when he is hot he is the best. I have giving up on wait until he is hot and wish they would keep him in the 8th spot instead of when he gets a hit, FG moves him to the 5th spot.

  • rogerh

    Sorry, I still have faith. It’s not how you begin; it’s how you end. The pitching is good enough to hide all the bad bats so far, although these first few games with Gattis on the DL have been extremely telling – the whole lineup – even Freeman – has been slumping. Two straight shutouts in eminently winnable games.

  • StubbornlyRational

    You must have been reading the Upton Watch posts on the ESPN boards. I have a question for you Jim. Has any team in the history of baseball ever won a league pennant with a trio of outfielders hitting as badly as the Uptons and Heyward?

    • http://atlantabullpen.com/ Jim Hart

      Don’t frequent the ESPN boards, SR. If there is a team in the history of baseball that has ever won a pennant with an outfield hitting this poor I don’t know who they were.