Upton trade pays off for Braves following impressive April

The Atlanta Braves lead the National League East by 2 ½ games over the Washington Nationals after just over one month of the season has been played. One of the reasons the Braves are in first is the play of Justin Upton. The powerful outfielder enjoyed one of the best April’s in Braves history and one of the best in all of baseball.

The 25-year old leftfielder has been able to redefine Atlanta’s No. 3 hitter’s role. Upton was traded this past January to the Brave from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has played a huge role in Atlanta’s early season success and is an early season MVP candidate for the league.

The young power hitter still has issues with strikeouts but when he connects with the ball, it seems to pop off his bat like previous Braves’ greats like Dale Murphy.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has experimented with juggling his batting order, but has stated that Upton is and will be his No. 3 hitter each and every day.

The stats for Upton for April are impressive. He hit more home runs in the month than any previous Braves player in the history of the franchise.

His 12 home runs during the month were two more than Andres Galarraga’s and Ryan Klesko’s and made him the first player for the Braves to lead the Majors in home runs in April since 1985 when Dale Murphy did it.

Out of his 12 home runs in April, 11 were solo shots. Upton did have one weak spot in the month of April and that was hitting with men in scoring position. He did not hit any home runs with men in scoring position and struck out seven times.

Upton’s strikeouts are a big question mark for the young power hitter. His manager Gonzalez says the number of strikeouts are concerning to him especially when runners are in scoring position, but when they take place at other times of the game they are not as important.

Gonzalez feels that the more strikeouts there are the more power his lineup has and many teams are probably complaining they do not have enough power in their lineups.

The simple fact is that home runs, in terms of run production offset multiple numbers of strikeouts.

That was evident in Upton’s first month this season. Upton struck out almost 27% of the time at the plate but was considered the most valuable player in baseball for the month in wins against replacement. This meant Upton was worth 2 wins more than a replacement player in the Braves lineup.

At this point his strikeouts are not too worrisome but if he does start to hit with less power and strike out more, the up and down batting order of Atlanta will suffer. However, Upton with help from some other contributors has helped to carry the team despite slumps and injuries holding back key players like Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton.

The season has just begun, but Upton has had an April to remember in Atlanta and put opposing pitchers on notice he can hit the long ball and turn a game around in seconds.

 

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