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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Decade Team, Right Field: Justin Upton

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The honor goes to a three-time silver slugger.

Justin Upton
Justin Upton
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After the voting, questions remained.

Despite his remarkable restraint and quiet in the comment section to keep from swaying votes, who AzDbackfanInDc voted for was obvious (Gerardo Parra). But alas, it was not enough. In the first 100 votes, Justin Upton built a 21% lead over Gerardo Parra. Parra fans voted late to reduce that gap.

With 18% of the vote, David Peralta fell short of becoming a historic 2-position winner. The runner up was Gerardo Parra with 28% of the vote. The winner was Justin Upton with 42% of the vote.

During the voting, questions were raised. Should the AZ SnakePit vote for an all-decade fourth outfielder, or vote for all-decade bench-players?

AZ SnakePit comments
AZ SnakePit comments

The all-decade outfield would be very good.

Assuming the winners play an entire season without injury (no small assumption), my estimated yearly WAR (based on average-per-game of bWAR and fWAR for the decade) would be 11.2 WAR from the all-decade outfield. How good is that? On the plus side, it’s clearly better than the D-backs performance in 2019 (which ranked 15th in the Majors in WAA). On the minus side, assuming cloning is possible, it’s not as good as three of Ketel Marte, who earned 6.9 WAR in center field in 2019.

  • Left Field: David Peralta 3.3 WAR per season, very good players are 3-4 WAR.
  • Center Field: AJ Pollock, 4.3 WAR per season, all-star players are 4-6 WAR.
  • Right Field: Justin Upton, 3.6 WAR per season, very good players are 3-4 WAR.

Justin Upton is the all-decade right fielder.

“He’s a true 5 tool player and the early favorite to be the first pick of the ‘05’ draft. Nobody in high scholl has better tools and that includes the ‘04’ class.” — scouting report

The D-backs drafted Justin Upton in the first round (first pick) of the 2005 draft. He jumped from AA to the Majors in 2007. In March 2010, he signed a contract extension through 2015 (although he was traded in January of 2013). He was a home-grown success; he earned 13.7 bWAR as a D-back.

“It’s exciting to be here – and to have my own locker.” — Justin Upton

His best season was 2011, when he earned his first silver slugger award and finished high in the NL MVP voting. In the decade, that season was one of two in which the D-backs reached the playoffs. In the playoffs against the Brewers, he had 4 hits, including 2 homers.

“One of Upton’s better seasons in Arizona came in 2009, but the majority of his run with the Diamondbacks happened at the beginning of this decade. That includes his All-Star year in 2011 when he finished fourth in National League MVP voting.” — Zach Buchanan

He won based on his awesome offense. One example was his 32.8 batting runs in 2011. Among active players his career statistics rank high:

  • 298 Home Runs ranks 9th.
  • 937 RBIs ranks 14th.
  • 33.9 Offensive WAR ranks 26th.
  • .476 Slugging percent ranks 33rd.

Justin Upton’s hitting approach was simple and effective. His wisdom follows:

  • “I try to hit off of feel rather than technique.” — Justin Upton
  • “You can work in the cage all you want. Until you have enough reps for it to become second nature, you can’t possibly take it into a game.” — Justin Upton
  • “You can take maybe one thought into a game. But if you start having multiple thoughts, you’re screwed. I’ve done that. It’s from experience. You can’t take multiple thoughts into a game. Someone can’t tell you two things in the cage and you do both when you get up there. It’s not possible.” — Justin Upton

Surprisingly, his defense as a D-back had an outstanding feature. In 2009 and 2010, his Total-Zone-Runs-As-A-Right-Fielder (which were 12 and 18) ranked 3rd and 2nd in the NL. His defense was underrated. “When I was a free agent, I was told by multiple teams, Oh, you don’t play good defense.” — Justin Upton

Justin Upton was traded to the Braves for Nick Ahmed and other players.

The D-backs won the trade by a huge margin! After the trade, Ahmed and Upton each earned about 10 WAR while under team control. The difference was Ahmed’s salary was lower ($6.7 Million vs $38 Million). In addition, the D-backs received Martin Prado (3.7 WAR) and Randall Delgado (1.5 WAR). Two views of the trade follow:

“Guys like Prado, you can hit-and-run with, make solid contact and use the whole field. That’s not to say we are not going to hit homers, but I think it is going to be a different style of play, and the style of play I was hoping for when we first got here.” — Kevin Towers

“It’s hard to say the Diamondbacks completely regret that deal — it did give them Ahmed — but they also lost out on a player who posted an .821 OPS and 178 homers over his next six seasons. Right field has been a problem ever since.” — Zach Buchanan

Justin Upton ranked high in bobbleheads.

The Diamondbacks gave away three Justin Upton bobbleheads (2009, 2010, and 2012). His three bobbleheads ties him with Mark Grace. The top level (four bobbleheads) includes Paul Goldschmidt, Luis Gonzalez, and Randy Johnson.