Seitzer encouraged by workouts with Upton
New Braves hitting coach spent three days working on outfielder's swing
ATLANTA -- Through his first two years in Atlanta, B.J. Upton has provided plenty of reasons to assume his days as a productive Major Leaguer are complete. But Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, after spending time working with Upton in Florida this week, has reason to be optimistic about his new project.
"I feel really, really good about it, because [Upton] was very open to everything that I suggested," Seitzer said. "We had a really good three days together -- three pretty intense days together. I think he feels pretty good about what I'm going to bring, and I feel good about the adjustments he has made."
When Upton signed a then-franchise record five-year, $75.5 million contract before the start of the 2013 season, the Braves viewed him as a highly-talented 28-year-old outfielder who would improve during what was projected to be the prime years of his career.
But two years later, there is reason to wonder if Upton will ultimately prove to be the biggest bust in Braves history. The veteran outfielder has batted .198 with 21 homers and a .593 OPS through his first two years in Atlanta. His -0.3 fWAR ranks as the fifth-worst mark among all Major Leaguers who have compiled at least 1,000 plate appearances during this span.
Still, with a little more than $46 million left on Upton's deal and the clear indication that other clubs are not willing to assume even a small fraction of the contract, the Braves have no other choice but to hope Seitzer will be able to push the right buttons and at least get Upton back to some level of production.
"It was shocking how well received I was," Seitzer said. "I've talked to a lot of people who have said B.J. doesn't like [false praise]. Nobody does. I just come in and I shoot straight. I shoot straight from my heart and tell him what I think. I'm a guy who wants to try to bring the best out of everybody, and you don't do that the wrong way."
Seitzer spent time this week talking to the veteran outfielder about the changes he needs to make to his mechanics and approach. Much of the focus was placed on the hands, the aspect of the swing that Chipper Jones addressed when the former Braves star talked to Upton in April.
"Any hitter that has a tendency to be long [with their swing], where their hands get away from the body, is going to have a tough time catching up to fastballs," Seitzer said. "They will also be vulnerable to offspeed pitches and inside pitches."
Seitzer, who served as Toronto's hitting coach last year, also spent some time recently with Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson. The former All-Star third baseman has been trying to establish a feel for all of the new players he will encounter this year. But obviously much of his attention over the next few weeks and months will be placed on helping Upton prove he is still capable of being a productive Major Leaguer.
"He did great [this week]," Seitzer said. "He made great adjustments, and I'm very encouraged that he's going to be able to come back and play the way he wants to play."