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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Down on the Upton

As I was watching Ubaldo Jimenez mow through D-Backs today, I had the distinct displeasure of listening to a couple of homer-happy Colorado broadcasters lay into Justin Upton, who, to be fair, looked just as bad as anybody in the Arizona lineup against what may be the best stuff in the NL (98 MPH heater, 85 MPH change, nasty slider and curve). Arizona may have done a disservice in bringing Justin to the bigs at the age of 19 with the hype that he was the second-coming of Ken Griffey Jr. However, I not so sure that he isn't. One must remember that Upton is still only 21. At an age when most "top prospects" are just beginning to climb the minor league ladder, Upton is in his third major-league season. When Griffey Jr. was 20, he had an 847 OPS. Upton's OPS last season was 814. Upton showed could plate discipline in his brief minor-league career, but has not quite translated it to the big leagues. Last season he struck out 121 times in just over 400 plate appearances. But he was also dealing with injuries, and he still hit 15 HR and had a respectable .353 OBP (that was third-highest among D-Back regulars, by the way). We're going to see some slumps still and I'm not sure he's ready to match the 100 RBI and 926 OPS Junior Griffey put up in his "junior" season, but Upton is very much on the verge of his breakout campaign. He may benefit from Eric Byrnes, Conor Jackson, Tony Clark, and Chad Tracy cutting into his playing time because it encourages Bob Melvin to give him occasional days off, especially against tough righthanders. Look for Upton to hit around .275 this year, with a .375 OBP, 20+ HR, and an OPS around 850. That's pretty good for a guy bought his first beer less than eight months ago.

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