Melvin Upton started the 2016 season on a tear in San Diego. Prior to the All-Star break, the 11-year veteran slashed .262/.311/.454 with 16 home runs, 44 RBI and scored 45 runs over 324 at-bats. Shortly thereafter, he was traded to Toronto and his production took a nosedive. He hit just .190 with four home runs and posted a 33.3 percent strikeout rate in 168 at-bats for the Jays, including a paltry .146 average in the campaign's final month, his worst mark for any month of the year. Upton displayed terrible plate discipline in 2016 as a whole. His 67.9 percent contact rate was the third-lowest in all of MLB, and his 6.9 percent walk rate was a career low. Toronto's outfield lacks depth, and Jose Bautista may be plying his trade elsewhere in 2017, which leaves Upton with more than a good chance to lock down a spot in the team's outfield. An everyday job over a full season in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre would provide a slight boost to Upton's value in 2017.
Upton (shoulder) did not play in Friday's spring training game against the Red Sox, Mike Wilner of Sportsnet reports. Upton's shoulder soreness has kept him out for close to one week at this point, and while manager John Gibbons suggested earlier in the week that the veteran outfield would be back soon, he's still not quite ready for game action. Still, Upton will likely be able to get back in the lineup for a couple of tuneups before the season officially gets underway on April 3. Upton's next chance to return will come Saturday against the Yankees.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons expects Upton (shoulder) to return within a few days, Sportsnet.ca reports. Gibbons said the injury is nothing more than general soreness, which aligns with earlier reports. Upton has been held out of Grapefruit League action since he was scratched from Saturday's lineup, but there's been no suggestion he's in danger of missing Opening Day. The bigger concern is that Upton could share playing time in left field with Ezequiel Carrera (thigh) and Steve Pearce.
Upton was scratched from Saturday's lineup due to right shoulder soreness, Toronto play-by-play announcer Mike Wilner reports. Darrell Ceciliani will take over in right field Saturday with Upton's removal from the lineup. Fortunately, Upton told Wilner that he doesn't believe his shoulder soreness will be a long-term issue. Upton's next chance to return to the lineup will come Sunday against the Pirates.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he may install a platoon with Upton and Ezequiel Carrera in left field, with Upton as the majority player because of Carerra's productivity against left-handed pitchers, Mike Wilner of Sportsnet reports. In similar situations, Upton has often occupied the short end of those splits, but this could help his fantasy value in deep mixed leagues, especially for speed-starved owners. Of course, even during his 2016 rebound season, the vet hit just .226/.274/.360 against right-handers. Those struggles could end up negating any gains in playing time, and if this platoon stumbles, perhaps Dalton Pompey could latch on to another opportunity for regular reps.
Upton feels his struggles in recent years have made him "mentally stronger" and well-prepared to hang on to the starting job in left field, which is bursting with competition breathing down his neck, Mike Nabors of MLB.com reports. In the past three years, Upton has changed his name, changed uniforms three times and late last year jumped back into an American League lineup for the first time since playing for the Rays in 2012. The 12-year veteran feels he's benefited from the roller-coaster ride. "Having some pretty good highs and feeling the lowest of lows kind of put things into perspective and has [helped me] stay even keel," Upton said. "It makes you continue to work and makes you mentally stronger." He'll need more mental toughness to hold on to the starting job in left field, though, where a competition includes journeyman Ezequiel Carrera, the up-and-coming Dalton Pompey and the newly-acquired Steve Pearce. Upton wasn't given a boost of confidence last week when his general manager, Ross Atkins, stated that the Jays' best lineup would include Pearce as the starting left fielder. Upton's 2017 fantasy value hinges on what type of role he'll play.