The Verdict: Justin Upton

Mr. Jones and MeCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2010

PHOENIX - JULY 26:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks walks back to the dugout after striking out during the major league baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chase Field on July 26, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Pirates 9-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the second edition of The Verdict.


Last time on The Verdict we heard the cases of Joel Pineiro and Nyjer Morgan

In this episode we will be looking at one of the most talked about fantasy players of this offseason, Justin Upton.


Accused : Justin Upton

Charge : Having expectations set too high due to all the hype.


Plaintiff : I am not here to argue that Justin Upton isn’t a great baseball player.  In fact, I am not here to argue that Justin Upton isn’t an exceedingly great baseball player.  What I am here to argue is that there is no way that the 22-year-old Upton is ready to meet the ridiculous expectations many have bestowed upon him this offseason.

In some early mock drafts Upton is being selected in as early as the second round, ahead of the likes of Ian Kinsler, Roy Halladay, and Matt Holliday.  That is just downright insane!  Drafting a player with the expectation that he is going to breakout, instead of drafting a reliable commodity like Holliday, is far too risky that early in the draft.

In 2009 Upton hit .300, with 84 R, 26 HR, 86 RBI, and 20 SB.  Pretty impressive numbers for a 21-year-old.  In 2008, between his time at AAA Tucson and with the D-Backs, Upton hit .254, with 65 R, 18 HR, 52 RBI, and, oddly, just three SB.  The point is that Upton already had his breakout season.  At just 22 he is not ready to take another monster step toward superstardom.

Justin Upton is a fantastically gifted athlete.  He is a lock to become a major league superstar, and may one day be the best player in baseball.  He likely has a number of league MVPs and fantasy MVPs in his future, but he isn’t yet ready to fulfill his destiny. 


Defendant : Justin Upton’s future is now.  2010 will be remembered as the year Upton cemented himself as one of baseball’s elite talents.  His combination of speed and strength has caused more than a few fantasy owners to wipe the drool of their chins since he exploded onto the scene in 2006 after the D-Backs took him with the first overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft. 

Upton’s tremendous 2009 season as a 21-year-old is just a preview of what’s to come.  For some reference, let’s compare Upton’s 2009 with a 21-year-old Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1990 season, also his first full season in the majors.








Griffey 1990






Upton 2009







Interesting?  Yes, but how does that relate to Justin Upton’s 2010 fortunes?  In 1991, as a 22-year-old, Griffey raised his batting average to .327 and collected 100 RBI.  Immense talents can grow in leaps and bounds, even at such a young age.  And yes, the comparison is fair.  Justin Upton is a Ken Griffey Jr.-level talent.

Also, keep in mind that, due to his early season platoon role and an oblique injury in August that landed him on the DL, Upton only played in 138 games last season.  Imagine what he will do in a full 162.  Justin Upton will be a first-round fantasy pick in 2011, and will produce like one for you this season.


The Verdict : Not guilty.  I almost feel bad for the plaintiff.  This case is the equivalent of trying to get a conviction on a nun for murder in the first.  The question isn’t really if Justin Upton will be one of baseball’s best players, but if Justin Upton will be one of baseball’s best players in 2010.  Don’t be surprised if he is. 

Even if he does not take a monumental leap, he will produce enough to make grabbing him in the third round or later well worth it.  Look for Upton to finish right around .305, with 95 R, 30 HR, 105 RBI, and 20 SB.

Look for the next episode of The Verdict soon.

Court is adjourned.