Since the singing of Justin Upton Monday, I’ve heard a lot of people bashing the signing in Detroit and wanting Yoenis Cespedes instead. So let’s do a comparison of the players and see where we net out. By the way, Cespedes is now being predicted to get 6-years and between $140mm and $150mm as a reference point.
To start, Cespedes is entering his age 30 season, while Justin Upton will be entering his age 28 season. Yoenis has 5 Major League seasons and 2,435 plate appearances under his belt, with Upton entering his 10th season and building on 4,934 plate appearances.
For their career, both have a .271 batting average, with Cespedes owning a .319 on-base, .486 slugging, and .805 OPS, with Upton sitting on a .352 on-base, .473 slugging, and .825 OPS. Cespedes did spend two and a half seasons in a tough hitter’s ballpark in Oakland, while Upton had to deal with the park in San Diego last season. Theoretically Cespedes could have slightly stronger slugging numbers if all things were equal. Taking that in to account is the stat OPS+ which adjusts OPS based on the park and indexes. Upton and Cespedes once again are very close with Upton at 121 and Cespedes at 122. Furthermore, looking at ratio’s Cespedes does strike out less at 20.9% of the time, with Upton at 24%, but walk ratio is much higher for Upton at 10.3% vs. Yoenis’s 6.1%.
As for counting stats, it’s tough to measure due to the large variance in plate appearances, so we’ll look at season averages. Normally we could look at stats over similar ages; however that’s based on only two years given Cespedes unique situation. That said, here is what it would look like if a player played 162 games in a season (averages):
Upton: 95 runs, 161 H, 32 2B, 5 3B, 26 HR, 84 RBI, 16 SB, and 70 BB, 162 K
Cespedes: 94 runs, 172 H, 35 2B, 6 3B, 30 HR, 103 RBI, 10 SB, 42 BB, 143 K
*In most cases, runs scored and RBI are irrelevant due to the team around you;
Working through career splits, the righty/lefty split isn’t major with the stats sticking out to me being Upton’s Home/Away stats where he hit .296 at home with a .907 OPS vs. .248 on the road with a .746 OPS. Cespedes was pretty balanced here.
Where Yoenis stuck out was 1st half of the season vs. 2nd half of the season. Cespedes saw a large gap where he hit .258 with a .765 OPS in the first half of the season vs. .285 and a .851 OPS in the second half. Upton is consistent when measuring against the season halves.
As for defense, the statements I’ve heard are that Cespedes is far superior. From the looks of it, Upton is in fact average to above average as an outfielder saving 8 runs above average(Rdrs) in 2 seasons (2015 & 2011) but also having a -7 in 2013. Cespedes when looking at Rdrs, 11 in 2015 and has seen solid numbers to support that outside of playing center field.
I can continue to break the players down, however I think we can summarize based on numbers displayed above. First, Cespedes will be worth the larger contract, however Yoenis is 2-years older which could change opinion’s in his age 35 and 36 seasons. Second, Cespedes rates out better defensively; however Upton will not hurt the team in any regard on D. Lastly, Upton does strike out more, but he also gets on base more, will add a few more steals, and has bigger upside on power based on age. Without a doubt, Tigers fans have an emotional connection to Cespedes, even if he was in Detroit for just over half a season, but with that 2-year difference I think the Tigers and the fans should be thankful that Detroit signed Justin Upton as he may not exceed what Cespedes does over the length of the next 2-to-3 years, *however it’s the last 3 years of the contract that could pay off as Yoenis theoretically declines.
*I’m assuming Upton does not opt-out after 2 years and if he does, that frees up money