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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #7, Justin Upton

He’s still only 30 years old. How is that possible?

Detroit Tigers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 4/28/6
  • Seasons: 2007-2012
  • Stats: 1489 games, .269/.348/.479 /.828 OPS, 32.4 bWAR
  • Best season: 2009 - 138 games, .300/.366/.532 / .899 OPS, 5.4 bWAR

Justin Upton was drafted by the Diamondbacks 1st overall in 2005 out of high school. He received a nice bonus and made his way up to the big leagues in 2007. He was drafted as a shortstop, but would have been dreadful playing there at the Major League level, so was moved to the outfield. Scouted as a five-tool player, the D-backs promoted Justin as the next face-of-the-franchise D-back early in his career.

In hindsight, the “Uptown” section of Chase Field may have been too much hype for such a young player. His stats are very good, but plateaued around 2009. If his expectations were lower, his stats might be described as more than “very good”. He has shown throughout his career that he will hit around 30HRs, 85 RBIs, .350 OBP, and .270 AVG. Very nice offensive numbers, but maybe not face-of-the-franchise type numbers.

His big league career with the Diamondbacks lasted between 2007-2012. During most of his time in Arizona he was a middle of the order, usually batting third, guy who was arguably the best hitter in the lineup. He hit over 100 HRs and 300RBIs during his tenure, while showing he could steal nearly 20 bags a year. His outfield play was serviceable with a decent arm, but a frustrating glove at times. He batted .300 in 2009 at the age of 21 and along with strong power numbers he was becoming the next star of the franchise. But that would be his best season. Hard to say that for sure though, he has been relatively close by numbers in a consistent way to his season at age 21 for the last 8 years.

In 2013, he was traded to the Braves for Martin Prado as the headline. Prado did not pan out long-term, but Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, and Brandon Drury were all included in the trade. Ahmed has been a great defensive shortstop, Delgado has evolved into a very good middle reliever, and Drury is a very strong asset both on the field and in potential trades for 2018.

Justin Upton was always going to command more money than was wise for a team like the Diamondbacks to give. By the end of 2012, it became clear that Upton was going to be a good-to-great player, but not an elite player. All those conclusions by the age of 25, hard to believe. He’s played for 4 teams since then, as that guy who can potentially put a team over the top. 2011 was a memorable season for the Diamondbacks with Justin Upton deserving a lot of the credit. Just not over the top credit.