Justin Upton joined the Atlanta Braves last off-season and high expectations accompanied his arrival. Upton started out on fire in April, after that he had a mediocre season. Overall, his season numbers ended up very close to his career averages, good but not great.
The Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado and Randall Delgado plus prospects trade has long been considered a win for Atlanta. However, if Chris Johnson wasn’t included in the trade, or hadn’t hit the cover off the ball last season, I’d consider the trade a win for Arizona. Johnson made that trade, I’d take Martin Prado straight up over Justin Upton right now, and it is not that close.
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Upton was supposed to be a middle of the order terror, driving in runs in bunches. Instead he had only 70 RBIs last season and is now firmly entrenched in the number two position in the Braves batting order. Prado had 82 RBIs last season with Arizona and Prado is a superior number two hitter who can handle the bat better, he’s superior defensively in left field and can play multiple positions. Plus, Prado came up through the Braves organization and was loved in Atlanta by management, players and fans.
Justin Upton is not a negative, he is just more of a loner, rarely giving interviews and is more follower than leader. That’s okay, not everyone on the team has to be Type A, or make a big impact on those in their midst. It is just that when it comes to impact in and around the organization, Prado was wearing size 16 shoes and Upton is in single digits.
Upton is a powerfully built 6’2″, 205 pounds and is athletic and runs well. If he could put an entire season together in 2014, he could carry the Braves a long way. But when you look at his career production, he has only reached 30 homers once in his six-year major league career (he also played a partial season) and he’s never reached 100 RBIs. His career high in RBIs is 88, six more than Prado had last season.
The 26-year old Upton will turn 27 in August. He’s no longer a phenom with unlimited potential. He is a veteran who has established a track record in the major leagues. Does all that potential lead to All-Star status, or enigma in the coming years? Should everyone just accept that he is a good, but not great player?
Is it time to pull out the famous line made by former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, who when talking about the Chicago Bears, after a game that the Cardinals led by 20 points late in the third quarter and lost? After that game, Green said of the Bears, “The Bears are what we thought they were.”
Do we already know what Justin Upton is as a player? Or is there more to learn? I’m not sure.
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