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: Mar 15, 2008
Posted on: January 15, 2012 7:24 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Just something to read in the offseason, obviously it's Kemp.

And to some of the posters, using age as an argument? Honestly? 27 is so old!!

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: January 15, 2012 2:52 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?


Are you serious about joining your fantasy league? I've been looking for a competetive keeper baseball league to join. Let me know if you legitimately want another member. @seyheykid

Since: Jun 26, 2007
Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:10 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

WOW. In a 16 team keeper league ive won 9 of the last 18 WS or 50 percet and I would take Upton over Kemp.  At 24 he hasnt hit is prime years yet.  40 or 50 hrs a year .300 150 isnt out of the question.

Join my league LOL.

Since: Aug 11, 2009
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:45 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Great job with analysis

Since: Dec 24, 2006
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:32 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

This article makes very little sense...I guess Upton was picked because of the "other" similarities, because from a production standpoint there are two or three other guys who compare much better to Kemp than Upton. 

Who'd I rather have?  Let's put it this way:  I'd love to join a fantasy league with the guys who pick Upton...because chosing a guy you HOPE will grow into the player Kemp already IS makes for very interesting analysis.  Let alone the fact that Upton is inconsistent. 

The upside argument is strange also given that Kemp is hardly on the downside of his career.  Who's to say Kemp couldn't produce even better next year even without a lineup improvement.  It's a complete given that Kemp would get a bump from a change in teammates or ballpark. 

Upton's a nice player, when healthy, but in a completely different tier than Kemp. 

An odd comparison, and even more strange that anyone would sway from a guy who nearly posted a triple crown plus top ten SBs.

Since: Aug 11, 2009
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:12 am

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows that Justin Upton had a great year in 2009,  and then wasn't even a guy you wanted on your team in 2010 with a .273 batting average and only 17 home runs.  He rebounded last year but seems to be inconsistent like his brother.  Kemp is not inconsistent.  He is a baller.  For those that know whats going on this isn't even close..............

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:53 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Is it me or did this guy just skip over the fact Upton has dealt with injuries 3 out of the last 4 seasons?  Last time I checked injuries tend to follow guys areound like a black cloud. They may manage 2 or even 3 years of relative health, but then the injury bug hits again.  Sure Upton is a great talent, but essentially picking Upton means you have to hope he becomes a better player than Kemp already is and avoid more nagging injuries.  No thanks, just give me Kemp who was a beast in a lineup that didnt have any other threats.

Since: Aug 14, 2007
Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:53 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

Kemp is the easy choice here. Nothing against Upton, he's great. Potential is not a measurable factor. Power, speed, avg, fielding, experience, and a longer better resume all point to Kemp. Dude is a BEAST. Upton has some ground to make up in this battle. PS-Please stop it with the 'I'm just saying' BS

Since: May 1, 2008
Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:20 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

He'd rather have Upton? That's why he's a sportswriter and not a GM.

Since: May 7, 2010
Posted on: January 14, 2012 10:21 pm

Would You Rather Have: Upton or Kemp?

In baseball terms Kemp is at hit peak at 27, Upton is 24 still has 3 years to get to his peak. I like Upton has alot of potential and room to grow. Both players have had good and bad seasons. As of right now Kemp is better. In three seasons I bet Upton at 27 is better than kemp.

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