D-backs Keep Budding Superstar in Phoenix

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The D-backs reached agreement Tuesday on a six-year contract for outfielder Justin Upton.

 

The deal covers all three of Upton’s arbitration-eligible seasons, as well as buying his first two free-agency eligible years.

 

On the surface, it seems to be a very strong deal for the D-backs, who not only avoid potentially tense (and potentially expensive) arbitration hearings, but will keep him in a D-backs uniform until he is 28 years old in 2015.

 

Sometimes it can be hard to grasp this in the case of a player we see every day, but Upton is doing historic things.

 

The list of players who not only appear in the Major Leagues at 19, but actually succeed that young is quite short. If you look at the some of the other best players in baseball today — Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Chase Utley, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder — only Rodriguez and Cabrera got started as young as Upton.

 

Just being up in the big leagues and playing regularly by 19 says a lot about Upton. Even guys like Fielder, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez, all of whom had excellent minor league careers after being drafted out of high school, didn’t crack the big leagues until months after they’d turned 21.

 

Here is a group of 11 players who succeeded in their ages 20 and 21 seasons in the big leagues. Five of these players (Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench and Willie Mays) are already in the Hall of Fame. Three are already locks for it or close (Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield). Two (Upton and Cabrera) are off to historic starts. Only Andruw Jones seems decisively likely to fall short of the Hall of Fame, and he still had a heck of a career.

 

You shouldn’t take from this any sort of guarantee that they’ll be carving a plaque for Upton in Cooperstown in 2033 or any guarantee that his career will mirror that of anyone on this list. But what you should take from it is that there is a very small and very special group of players who are capable of doing significant damage in the big leagues before they’re even as old as an average college graduate, and based on what Upton has already accomplished in the Major Leagues, he deserves to be on this list.

 

- – - – - – - – - – - -PA – - – AVG – - – OBP – - – SLG – - – OPS – - -OPS+

Williams – - – - – 1338 – - – .336 – - – .439 – - – .601 – - – 1.041 – - – 161

 

Griffey – - – - – - 1299 – - – .313 – - – .382 – - – .503 – - – .885 – - – 145

 

Rodriguez – - – -1315 – - – .329 – - – .383 – - – .564 – - – .947 – - – 141

 

Robinson – - – - -1345 – - – .307 – - – .378 – - – .543 – - – .921 – - – 138

 

Aaron – - – - – - 1174 – - – .299 – - – .347 – - – .499 – - – .846 – - – 125

 

Bench – - – - – - 1199 – - – .284 – - – .332 – - – .459 – - – .791 – - – 123

 

Cabrera – - – - – 1031 – - – .285 – - – .352 – - – .497 – - – .849 – - – 121

 

Upton – - –  - – 1005 – - – .280 – - – .361 – - – .505 – - – .866 – - – 118

 

Mays* – - – - – - 668 – - – .266 – - – .349 – - – .459 – - – .808 – - – 116

 

A. Jones –  - – - 1098 – - – .255 – - – .324 – - – .475 – - – .799 – - – 106

 

Sheffield –  - – - 952 – - – .274 – - – .330 – - – .385 – - – .715 – - – 102

 

* Mays lost about 70 percent of his age 21 season to the Korean War, missed all of 1953, and was excellent in 51 and 54, so he’s probably a little underrepresented here.

 

There was even more to discuss than could fit into one blog post, so I’ll be back with some more Upton later this afternoon.

 

2 Comments

I really believe that Justin Upton will be a Hall of Famer when it is all said and done. This kid is a joy to watch and has a chance to be one of the best to ever play. He has all the tools and will be the best RF in baseball this year. Smart move by the D-Backs. I have heard they want to give a extension to Mark Reynold too, which would also be a smart move. I just wrote about J-Up on my blog yesterday…
Teen-Tiger
http://5toolblog.mlblogs.com/

Thanks for checking in, Teen-Tiger. Upton’s a heck of a player, with a really impressive work ethic. He’s well aware of his ability and potential, and there’s little doubt he’s going work toward being a perennial All-Star. And yes, it would be awfully nice to see Mark Reynolds in a D-backs uniform for several more years as well.

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