Blog Entry

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Posted on: January 14, 2012 2:37 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 3:17 pm

By C. Trent Rosecrans

We love interaction here at Eye On Baseball, comments can make us think and we like reading what you think. Sometimes you bring up a point we hadn't thought about and make us re-think our positions or reinforce our views. Often, you help copy edit and fact check, those contributions are equally appreciated. We love good, intelligent comments. Really, one of the reasons for the Would You Rather Have series was to get more involved with our readers and encourage disussion. So far, it's succeeded and we hope it continues.

That said, the one criticism of yesterday's comparison of Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria made no sense to me -- some commenters said we couldn't compare a third baseman and a shortstop. Really? Just hours after posting that, the Yankees and Mariners played their own game of Would You Rather Have, comparing a catcher/DH and a pitcher -- and nobody told them they couldn't do it.

Sometimes the pairings we come up with will be players of the same position, other days they may have other things in common. Yesterday we had college teammates and today we're looking at two of the best talents in the game, and two of the top four finishers in last year's National League MVP vote -- Justin Upton and Matt Kemp. The pairjust happen to play in the same division, but different outfield positions.

The case for Upton

Sometimes it's hard to believe Upton is just turned 24 at the end of August, it seems like he's been around for a long time now. And really, he has been talked about in baseball circles for quite a while. The younger brother of the Rays' B.J. Upton, the younger Upton has been on the radar since high school because of his own play, but also because his older brother went second overall in the 2002 draft. In 2005, Upton topped his brother by going first overall.

It didn't take long for Upton to show up on the big stage, arriving in the big leagues before his 20th birthday. In the four subsequent seasons, he's improved and blossomed into one of the game's best players, As a 23-year-old in 2011, Upton hit .289/.369/.529 while setting career-highs in hits (171), doubles (39), homers (31), RBI (88) and stolen bases (21), in addition to the best on-base percentage of his career. He's also turned out to be one of the best defensive right fielders in the game, winning the Fielding Bible Award for 2011.

What the numbers don't show is just how much room there is for Upton to improve. Putting up those kinds of results could be a career-year for many fine players, but Upton can be even better, which is scary.

The case for Kemp

Kemp, like Upton, appears to have all the talent in the world. And 2011 was when he put it all together, showing that he can not just be a very good player, but an MVP-level player. As much as anything, his teammates kept him from winning an MVP in 2011, as he put up a 10 WAR according to on the strength of his .324/.399/.586 season. In addition to leading the National League in homers (39), runs (115) total bases (353) and OPS+ (171), he led the majors with 126 RBI. Kemp missed out on the MVP, but did win the Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove (although advanced numbers don't like his defense as much as the voting bloc of managers and coaches do, apparently).

The Dodgers signed Kemp to an eight-year, $160 million extension after the 2011 season -- but if he continues to put up the numbers he did in 2011, the 27-year-old will be well worth the cost. Upton signed an extension before the 2010 season that will keep him in Arizona for the next four years at a total of $45.25 million, with a $2 million bump in 2012 over 2011, a $3 million raise in 2013 and a $4.5 million increase in 2014, before maxing out at $14.5 million in 2015. That's the thing with supreme talent, if you want to keep it, you must pay, and neither of these players will be living paycheck to paycheck anytime soon.

Our call

It's pretty much a coinflip. On one hand, you have the production and cost certainty of Kemp, knowing you'll have him through the 2019 season. On the other hand, there's the dream of just how good Upton can be, but then risk losing him right after his 28th birthday following the 2015 season and seeing him star elsewhere. If I were in a gambling mood, I'd take Upton. But as it is, I'm feeling conservative (or as conservative as you can feel when doling out $160 million) and take Kemp, hoping that 2011 was the start of a trend. Ask me again in 15 minutes and I could change my tune.

Fan Vote: Would you rather have Upton or Kemp on your favorite team?

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Since: Jan 11, 2007
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:43 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

No contest!  Why is this being debated?  Must be a rhetorical question.  Kemp, just like Upton, lacks maturity.  Both possess unbelievable skills, but only one scares the opposing team.  Kemp!  This dude learned to lay off the hard slider away, which prevented him from being mentioned with Pujols/Fielder this offseason, but he truly is a game changer.  Watch his swing closely!  He never takes a homerun swing; it's always the same, effortless and smooth.  Ask any GM in the league, Upton or Kemp.  KEMP EVERY DAMN TIME!

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:57 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?


Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: January 15, 2012 6:52 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

The point was, the comparison by Mr. Rosecrans was only made between Tulowitzki and Longoria because they attended the same college, which is stupid. So why not compare one Jewish player with another? Just as absurd.

Trades are made with teams not because the players are similar in stats, but because teams may be stronger in one position than another. A team may trade a catcher for a pitcher if they are deep in catchers and not so deep in pitchers. And in this case, the Yankees are loaded with catching prospects, so can afford to part with one for a pitcher. The trade was NOT made because the teams were playing some exercise of comparing a catcher to a pitcher. And certainly the catcher and pitcher exchanged did NOT attend the same college.

Since: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: January 15, 2012 5:35 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Lincecum Matty hit for about 30 better in batting average, stole around 20 more bases and Upton batted under .300

Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: January 15, 2012 4:46 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Two very good players. Both hit for average, power, and score runs. Kemp drives in more runs and steals more bases. Upton stricks out less. I would take both of them on my team. At this point, Kemp is a better player and has put up better numbers with less support then Upton. Upton is younger and may put up better number over a career. This is a tough choice, edge to Kemp.

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: January 15, 2012 11:46 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

I would say it is ok to compare players from different positions as long as you include that in your measurement. For example if Player A was put up the exact same numbers as player B but played at a position where those number are scarce then you would take player A in a landslide. If I had to choose between Tulo And Gonzo I would take Tulo even though his numbers are not quite as good. I can find a decent replacement for Adrian somewhere else.

Since: Apr 19, 2009
Posted on: January 15, 2012 11:39 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Kemp was the MVP. He did all his damage with NO protection unlike Braun who had Fielder and some pharmaceuticals. Hopefully this season Ethier will come back, keep his attitude in check and will also get a hit or two against a lefty.

Since: Jan 15, 2012
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:56 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Justin Upton all the way. I like the kids work ethic and his steady climb. If I was a betting man I would put money on Matt Kemp sliding backwards after the payday!

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:34 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Let's not forget Kemp's 2010 season. When you hit .249 one season at the age of 26, and then .324 the next season at 27 there are two possible outcomes for when you are 28. I would pick Kemp right now, but his tumultuous 2010 campaign wasn't even mentioned in the article. A 75 point jump in average from one season to the next should raise serious concerns as to which year should be considered normal and which one was fluke. Additionally, he doubled his SB total in 2010 from the previous year and his slugging was almost 100 points higher than any previous year.

Since: Aug 1, 2008
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:21 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

I am co-commish in a lifetime keeper league.  Keep ten each year plus a 7 man minor league system.  We have 6 Canadians and have lost one American, so down to 5. Want to keep an even balance.  Heading into our 5th year.  Most of us are meeting in Cincinnati (if we can get tickets) opening day weekend to do the draft live (but still online).  $150 pay in.  Most owners are very active.  No American has won our pool yet.  I know one of the guys had a lead on a replacement, but no commitment. You would have to buy the existing team.  His pitching staff includes F. Hernandez, Jiminez, Lee, Jurrjens, Shields and others.  Off the top of my head I believe he has Youkilis, Kendrick, Granderson and Pence amongst others on offense.  Again we cannot commit immediately but we may have a need. 

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