The Devil Trades Prado: Why Arizona May Have Won the Justin Upton Trade

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The Devil Trades Prado: Why Arizona May Have Won the Justin Upton Trade
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Martin Prado could thrive playing only one position all year as a Diamondback.

Atlanta Braves fans everywhere rejoiced Thursday morning, as news crossed the wire that a trade had been finalized and the team was officially acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

However, in the midst of conversations about how the brothers would enjoy playing together and what the new outfield threesome should be called, the euphoria began to subside, as word then came across that popular “super utility man” and former All-Star Martin Prado was part of the deal and would be leaving.

Most Braves fans are still thrilled at having Upton in a Braves uniform, despite their sadness at losing Prado. However, a look inside the numbers shows that this trade is not the steal for the Braves that many believe it is.

Offensively, Justin Upton clearly provides more power to a Braves lineup that already has several power hitters. However, he lacks the consistency at the plate Prado provides.

Over the last three years, Upton has 65 home runs to Prado’s 38 and has a higher OPS (.830 vs. .767). However, Prado has hit for higher average (.290 vs. .281) and has many fewer strike outs since 2010, with only 207 compared to Upton’s 399. Prado does have a lower on-base percentage, primarily because he tends to put more balls in play.

Upton does take a good number of walks, with 186 to Prado’s 132, but when all this is put together, Prado has a higher WAR (wins above replacement) over the last three seasons, racking up 12.1, while Upton stands at 9.2.

Offense being mostly a push, with the power edge going to Upton and the “professional hitter” edge going to Prado, further assessment can be done on defense.

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Many writers and pundits are saying that since Justin Upton has joined the Braves, they now have the best outfield in the National League.

However, there’s a case to be made that they would have anyway.

Prado and Upton had matching .984 fielding percentages in 2012, but Prado, with his infielder’s arm, had nine outfield assists to go with it. Upton only had six outfield assists, which is not a large disparity, save for the fact that Upton played nearly 300 more innings in the outfield than Prado.

Further, Upton has always primarily been a right fielder, but since the Braves have Gold Glover Jason Heyward in right, Upton will have to learn a slightly new position. This, of course, has never been a problem for Prado, who started games at five different positions last year and is likely to thrive at his more natural third-baseman slot.

Obviously, there are intangibles at play as well. The Uptons, being competitive brothers, could inspire each other to have career years.

Upton has always hit well at Turner Field. Prado, however, being a line-drive hitter, has numbers above his career averages at Chase Field. In 54 career plate appearances, Prado has hit .319 with an OPS of .817 at Chase. If that trend continues, Prado could have a career year playing 81 games there.

In sum, the Braves got what they wanted: a flashy, slick, marketable, strong defensive outfield and lots of power.

The Diamondbacks, however, got what they needed: a player who hits for average, is defensively versatile, is a clubhouse leader, plays his heart out and consistently does what it takes to make his team win—something the D-Backs will do more often with Martin Prado on the roster.

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