When the occasional, one-team-watch fan hears or sees the name "Upton", their first thoughts might be of Bossman Jr, the center fielder of the Tampa Bay Rays, due to their miracle run in 2008. While BJ looks like he's on his way to a bright future, there's another Upton who's made his way onto the stage and quickly taking the spotlight: It's younger brother Justin...
Justin Upton was born in Northfolk, Virginia and played at the Area Code Games in 2002. Despite being two years younger than everyone else, all eyes were on the 14-year old star. He played alongside guys like Jay Bruce, Andrew McCutchen and Colby Rasmus. Two years later, he was awarded the AFLAC National High School Player of the Year Award.
Before you know it, Justin would be selected 1st overall in the 2005 Amateur Draft, ahead of stars such as Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki. Upton went on to represent USA at the future's game in 2007, and was rewarded for his efforts by being called up by the Diamondbacks in August, and received the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year Award.
Although he struggled in his first stint in the big leagues, coaches, fans, scouts and everyone related to baseball raved on about how talented the young kid was. Indeed so, as he was the youngest player in 2007 at the ripe old age of 19.
In his second season in the big leagues, and what would look to be his first full season, Justin struggled again, after hitting just .250 with 15 home runs, and missed 43 games due to an oblique injury.
Bust? Not so fast. In just 25 games in the second half, Justin did have an OPS over .900, an achievement worth bragging about for the youngster.
After following possible demotion to Triple A Reno in 2009, Justin had to prove that he was ready for the big leagues. He started off slow in April, but in May is when he truly turned things around. He hit .373/.444/.709, and was recognized for his accomplishments as he was named the Player of the Month. Justin followed suit in June, hitting .303/.389/.525. He wasn't named player of the month, but it was still a solid 25 games all around.
In July, the biggest of accolades came. Charlie Manuel, manager of the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies, selected Justin to play in the all-star game. The 21-year old was thrilled to participate in an event that featured the game's biggest stars such as Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Joe Mauer. While he will be remembered in that game for making misread in the field that would end up resulting in the go ahead run, you could take absolutely nothing away from Upton. He was only 21, and was already recognized as one of the brightest young stars at his profession.
Things were looking way up for Justin, but he suffered a setback in August. He would be bothered by an oblique injury again, but only missed 18 games this time. He doesn't seem to be fazed by the injury, as he has hit .457/.486/.857 with 3 home runs since then.
In his 2009 campaign, Justin wasn't just an all-star, he wasn't just player of the month, he was having a breakout season, a season for the ages. Sure, there's still a month of baseball left, but Upton was on his way to super stardom, and at this rate, he would have accomplished something that has only been done THREE times in the last 20 years. This feat is having a .300 AVG, and a .900 OPS, while doing so at the age of 21 years or younger. (ages are recorded as of June 30) The other players are Ken Griffey Jr in 1991, Alex Rodriguez in 1996, and Albert Pujols in 2001.
As it looks like, those three players are surefire, first ballot hall of famers, and each of them had great success early on in there careers. So, will Upton become as big a legend as one of those three greats?
High school credentials, first overall pick, legitimate 5-tool player, early accolades and accomplishments, what's not to like? Justin Upton has the makeup and resume of a phenom. Now the question is, is he baseball's next big thing? Arizona Diamondbacks fans everywhere are surely loving him right now.