The biggest emerging star in the National League West isn’t playing in a major television market or wearing Dodger blue. He isn’t throwing 95 MPH heat by the bay either.
With apologies to both Tim Lincecum and Matt Kemp, this is the year where Arizona outfielder Justin Upton will surpass them and many others to become the NL MVP and one of the premier faces of baseball.
Upton hasn’t been a bust by any means, but extremely lofty expectations have cast a shadow of doubt as to if he can ever become one of the game’s best.
When people talk about Upton, they talk about how high his talent ceiling goes, his potential and what he could be. They seem to forget that he is only 24 years old. While most players his age are just getting their first crack at the big leagues, Upton is already a seasoned veteran that went through his growing pains while playing effectively at the big league level.
Upton broke into the league at 19, and from the start his talent was noticeable. He hit 15 home runs in his second season but finally broke out in 2009, when he belted 26 homeruns and hit .300. After a down year in 2010, Upton regained his form last season and finally broke the 30 homerun threshold. Included in his 31 homeruns was a 478-foot moon shot that still has yet to land.
Upton has excellent speed as well, and is a likely candidate to join the elite 30-30 club this upcoming season. Upton’s defense is improving steadily and he is starting to limit the mental errors that plagued him in his earlier career.
Upton is starting to put all the pieces together and is on the cusp of being a mega-star.
Everything about Upton’s skill set is freakish. His bat speed, athleticism and pure strength are remarkable and he isn’t even close to entering his prime yet.
Upton possesses a rare dose of raw physical talent that made him the first overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. Now entering his fifth full season in the majors, he is now beginning to combine the knowledge he is acquiring by playing daily with his freak-like abilities. Now that he is starting to get it, the rest of league should be put on notice.