Justin Upton is one of the most promising young players in baseball, and the Atlanta Braves are hoping he brings the pop he showed in 2011 over with him to his new team. Upton blasted 31 homers and drove in 88 runs with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. That total went down a disappointing 17 homers in 2012, but Upton left little doubt on Thursday that he is still capable of hitting the long ball.
During Atlanta’s spring training game against the Washington Nationals, Upton sent a home run flying over the scoreboard in center field that probably still hasn’t landed. It was as monstrous a homer as we’ve seen all preseason. Upton already has over 100 home runs in his career and he is only 25 years old. When he hits shots like that, we can see why. He hasn’t yet broken a scoreboard like this young Miami Marlins stud, but clearing it altogether is equally impressive.
The Diamondbacks reportedly will consider trading Justin Upton if they fall out of contention in the NL West, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report.
Upton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft and made it to the big leagues as a 19-year-old in 2007. He put together strong seasons in 2009 and 2011, making the All-Star team both seasons and finishing fourth in NL MVP voting last season, but he’s had a pedestrian season thus far.
Upton is only batting .267/.350/.384 with seven home runs. He’s been criticized by his team’s owner and booed by Arizona fans for his disappointing season. We’re guessing those are two reasons why he would welcome a trade, though he can block a deal to four teams according to terms of his deal.
Arizona is currently 40-43 and six games back in the NL West. Between the mediocre competition in the division and extra playoff spot, the team may feel like it’s in playoff contention and elect not to become sellers. But don’t be surprised to see them deal Upton if he doesn’t heat up in the next few weeks.
GM Kevin Towers listened to trade offers for Upton when he took over the team in 2010. Upton also has an extremely reasonable contract (he is owed approx. $39 million over the next three years), so teams that have money should be willing to pick him up. We’re not confident that he gets traded this year, but it’s something that might be beneficial to both sides.
Photo credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Justin Upton is not exactly having a horrible season, but 2012 has been frustrating for those who are waiting for him to become a star. After belting 31 homers and driving in 88 runs last season, Diamondbacks fans are expecting the 24-year-old to at some point emerge as one of the best outfielders in the game. Upton is hitting .263 with only seven homers and 34 RBIs so far this season, so the first half has been somewhat of a disappointment. He has only two hits in his last 24 at-bats, which has inspired Arizona fans to begin booing him. Upton says the boos don’t bother him.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care anything what the fans think of me,” Upton said after an 0-for-5 night on Wednesday according to ESPN.com. “My teammates, my coaches, they know I come here and I bust it every single day. I try to do everything I can to help this team. My teammates have my back and whatever the fans want to think, they can think.
“They can call me lazy. I have heard that in the outfield. They can call me washed up. Whatever they want to call me but at the end of the day I am thankful for every opportunity to come out on a baseball field and I will try my hardest every day.”
As Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk mentioned, that is a fairly reasonable response from Upton. Slumps are part of the game and the fans gave him the same treatment when he slipped at times last season. However, Upton signed a six-year, $51.25 million contract two years ago. The fans expect him to earn that money, so he should get used to being criticized when he plays poorly — even by his team’s owner. Considering the slump he is in, the “I’d boo me too with the way I’m hitting” approach probably would have worked better in this situation.
Photo credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
With roughly a third of the 2012 MLB season in the books, the Diamondbacks still have plenty of time to turn things around. Heading into this season, expectations were high in Arizona.The D-Backs won the NL West last season with an impressive 94 win total and have returned Stephen Drew and Justin Upton. However, they are currently third in the NL West with a record of 26-30. Things have taken an unexpected turn, and D-Backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick believes the team’s young stars are part of the problem.
“I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now, frankly,” Kendrick said in reference to the gruesome ankle injury Drew suffered last season, according to the Arizona Republic. “I, for one, am disappointed. I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than on going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary.”
Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, says that is nonsense. Drew has a mutual player/club option worth $10 million for next season, and if either side denies he’ll be in search of a new contract.
The D-Backs beat the Padres 3-1 Saturday night but it was no thanks to an astute San Diego fan down the right field line. That Padres fan really had his head in the game because he knew he was saving his team an out. Sadly for him, the San Diego offense is too pathetic to cobble together more than a run. At least he didn’t get shamed out of the park like the Ichiro impersonator. Given how hardcore Diamondbacks fans have proven to be, that comes as quite a surprise.
The 2011 Home Run Derby was pretty enjoyable, but there was one key element missing from the competition: Justin Upton. The young Diamondbacks outfielder is a reserve for the NL All-Star team but was left off the Home Run Derby team despite wanting to participate. For the first time, the Home Run Derby selected team captains from each League and allowed them to choose their teammates.
Prince Fielder was the captain of the NL squad and he chose Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday, and teammate Rickie Weeks to participate. Holliday only has 12 home runs on the season compared to Upton’s 15, so one could argue that was a stretch. But Diamondbacks fans were more upset that Fielder showed favoritism by picking Weeks, who is not known as a power hitter (though he does have 17 this season).
Arizona fans, who as we learned are much more hardcore than we ever thought, let Prince and Weeks hear it with boos. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says fans booed Prince during afternoon batting practice and throughout the Derby.
Weeks also was booed throughout the Derby. He didn’t know why he was being booed, and he didn’t care for it. “You don’t want anybody booing you,” said Weeks. “I didn’t know what it was about at first. I guess I understand. It is what it is.”
As I said, Diamondbacks fans are much more hardcore than we ever thought, and this is just one more example. But they have a right to be upset. The Home Run Derby is a time to showcase some of the best power hitters in the game. Upton hits some of the longest home runs in baseball. With the game being played at Chase Field, he was a natural fit. Prince and MLB blew it with this one and the boos make sense.
This year’s MLB All-Star Game will be played at Chase Field in Arizona, home of the Diamondbacks. While the captains for the Home Run Derby teams have already been selected (whatever the heck that means), the rest of the rosters have yet to be determined. So who will join Prince Fielder and David Ortiz in the Derby in two weeks? Home town favorite Justin Upton would love to be a part. The youngster who infrequently updates his twitter account posted this note Thursday evening:
With so many athletes who whine that the derby messes with their swing, it’s great to see an athlete who wants to participate to entertain the fans. And you know what? Upton would be the perfect addition.
Justin has hit the second-longest home run of the season, a 478-foot blast at home. He routinely hits some of the farthest home runs we’ve seen this year, right up there with Prince Fielder and Mark Trumbo. According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker, Upton has clubbed four of the longest 22 home runs of the season, far more than anyone else in that top group.
Though it’s a different sport, we saw what happened when a top youngster participated in the Slam Dunk Competition at NBA All-Star weekend and how exciting that was. Justin Upton could add a similar spice to the MLB game.