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Goin' up: Justin Upton's Stock on the Rise

PHOENIX - JULY 26:  Justin Upton #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks waits to bat 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
Jason LempertCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2010

Justin Upton has the all the makings of the next great baseball star. He plays right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He's only 22 years old, but plays the game like a 30-year-old.

Upton, my early pick for 2010 National League Most Valuable Player, has baseball in his genes. His brother, B.J., currently plays for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Upton brothers were both first-round picks (B.J. 2nd overall in 2002, and Justin 1st overall in 2005).  And since his major league debut in 2007, Justin has appeared to overshadow his older brother.

Both Uptons come from a baseball-rich area. They come from Virginia, along with the likes of Justin's teammate Mark Reynolds, Mets' David Wright, and Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman. For sure, Virginia has produced some of today's brightest baseball stars.

Upton was called up by the D-Backs in August of '07 and hit two home runs in 140 at-bats. Since then, he has hit 41 home runs. There is no reason not to think that he won't hit 35-40 long balls in 2010. And batting in a lineup that includes Reynolds, Stephen Drew, and Adam LaRoche, I also expect him to drive in and score at least 100 runs.

Upton is also perfectly capable of wreaking as much havoc with his legs as he his with his  bat. In 2009, he stole 20 bases, and was caught only five times. He's got a cannon in right field and has all the tools and skills of a perennial all star.

The Diamondbacks, with a solid top of the rotation and a core offensive threat in the middle of their lineup, should definitely be considered early favorites to win the NL West crown in 2010. And Justin Upton will most certainly be in the spotlight during the 2010 season, and for many more to come.

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