Breaking Down the Moving Pieces in the Justin Upton Deal
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In one of the more drawn-out trade sagas in recent years, Justin Upton's exit from the Arizona Diamondbacks was finally agreed this week. Incidentally, he will be joining his brother B.J. with the Atlanta Braves.
The final deal sent Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson to Atlanta for third baseman/left fielder Martin Prado, starting pitcher Randall Delgado, and three prospects: shortstop Nick Ahmed, pitcher Zeke Spruill and third baseman Brandon Drury (via MLB).
Just on name recognition alone, this trade could be classified as a "blockbuster" of sorts. And certainly, it's a deal that's bound to shake up the new teams and their respective goals for this upcoming season.
Here is a breakdown of how all the pieces involved will fit in.
Power is one of Justin Upton's biggest attributes.
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Of course, the centerpiece of the deal is Justin Upton himself. The top overall pick in the 2005 MLB entry draft, Upton stormed through the minors and broke into Arizona's squad before he hit 20 years old. Since then, he has only grown as a player.
He is a five-tool player without a doubt, but his penchant for striking out (which he has tamed over the last couple of seasons) does tend to knock that down to four tools. Still, he has beastly power and above-average speed, and he is a strong fielder with a plus arm.
Essentially, he is exactly the player the Braves were looking for. Braves GM Frank Wren told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was looking for "someone that could hit third, could give us right-handed power, be a young, dynamic middle-of-the-order type hitter. And Justin fits that bill.”
Looking at the new Atlanta squad, he will likely slide over to left field since the Braves already have Jason Heyward to man right, with B.J. Upton between them.
Offensively, he had a bit of a down year in 2012, with just 17 home runs to his name. But a second straight 100-plus RBI season is nothing to sneeze at, and he will have a good lineup around him this season, so expectations should be high.
If we take Wren at his word, Upton will slot into the third spot in the lineup, with Freddie Freeman and Heyward probably jumping in behind him. That is a fearsome trio that could give even the Philadelphia Phillies' vaunted pitching staff nightmares.
Martín Prado leaves behind a lot of fans in Atlanta.
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Martín Prado's addition in this trade was an interesting one, mainly because he is such a well-known player. Typically, trades of this nature revolve around prospects, with perhaps a highly touted player already in the bigs involved.
But Prado was not only one of the best players on the squad, he was one of the most-liked as well. As Frank Wren stated, "He’s such a professional. He’s such a quality person. We’re sad to see him go. It was the toughest decision we had to make." (via AJC)
A second baseman for several years before the Braves signed Dan Uggla, Prado has split time between left field and third base, though favoring the former, over the last two years, and has found time to play second, shortstop and even first base.
Prado was an All-Star in 2010, and he has been a consistent performer. His power numbers (10 HR, 70 RBI) last year aren't amazing, but his .301 batting average was his fourth such season in the last five. He also stole 17 bases, more than doubling his career total before the season.
With Jason Kubel currently occupying left field and Aaron Hill at second base, Prado will likely take over at third base. But don't be surprised to see him get a good amount of playing time at all three positions, or wherever manager Kirk Gibson needs him. And he'll play well, too.
He will probably hit second after speedster Adam Eaton, and his high contact rate will see him frequent the basepaths for the big boppers like Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt, who will continue to use Chase Field's friendly conditions to rack up the runs.
Chris Johnson should be a solid addition in Atlanta.
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Flying under the radar in this trade is—well, everyone not named Upton or Prado, for the most part. Included in this group is third baseman Chris Johnson, who has now been traded twice in the last six months.
But a down year in 2011 and a down organization last year saw him shipped out of town before the trade deadline, landing in Arizona. He ended the season on a high note, with 35 RBI over his 44 games in Phoenix.
Now in Atlanta, he will at least share the task of filling Chipper Jones' hole at third base. Johnson will be aided by Juan Francisco in these efforts, with Francisco having seen plenty of time at the hot corner last year filling in for Jones.
Neither are great defensively, and Johnson is the better contact hitter with Francisco providing more beef. Either way, expect to see whoever fills this position hitting in the bottom third of what should be a solid Braves batting order.
Randall Delgado was part of Atlanta's bevy of young pitching talent.
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As with any big-ticket trade in Major League Baseball, highly regarded prospects are going to be discussed. In this case, leading the line for the prospects moving around is pitcher Randall Delgado.
Part of Atlanta's vaunted crop of young pitchers, which included the likes of Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Craig Kimbrel, Delgado's stats might not stand out like the rest of them, but he does have some good stuff.
Bleacher Report's Adam Wells wrote a review of Delgado in which he projected the 22-year-old to fight for a spot in Arizona's rotation. It will be a tough ask, given the talent already in place.
With Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley easy picks, new signing Brandon McCarthy back to full health and Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs promising youngsters, Delgado will have his work cut out for him.
If he doesn't find his way into the mix, he could move into the bullpen. There is a chance he ends up at AAA Reno as well, where he could be paired up with Skaggs in that club's rotation.
The Rest of the Prospects
Zeke Spruill is among three other players ending up with Arizona.
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Blockbuster trades like this often see a high amount of players leaving one of the teams involved. In this case, the Braves have traded three prospects to go along with Prado and Delgado.
The first of these is yet another young pitcher, Zeke Spruill. Drafted in 2008, the 23-year-old has moved slowly through the Braves' minor league system, pitching all of last season in AA ball. 2013 could see him move up to AAA.
B/R's Timothy Rapp described Spruill as a pitcher who "won't blow batters away with overwhelming stuff or accumulate a ton of strikeouts, but he is a consistent and steady pitcher that gets the job done more often than not."
Nick Ahmed is the next prospect dealt. The UConn product boasts a good set of wheels (40 steals at high-A Lynchburg last year) and is regarded as a top defensive product (via Baseball America). He may be a full year away from sniffing big-league action but looks promising for Arizona's future.
Last on the transaction list comes Brandon Drury. At Class-A Rome in 2012, Drury hit just .229 with five homers while splitting time between first and third base. He is unlikely to see playing time in the next couple years, with Prado and Goldschmidt having those positions well locked down.
Either way, he rounds out a nice selection of talent that the Diamondbacks received for dealing Justin Upton. Not only can the two teams be set for success now, but they have a decent setup for the coming years.