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Brave New World: Justin Upton joins bro in Atlanta

By Keith Hernandez

In case you haven't heard or seen yet, Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was finally able to unload Justin Upton after trying for the last two years at various times.

The Atlanta Braves were the takers, sending Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill to the desert. Third sacker Chris D. Johnson also came over to the Bravos from Arizona.

Arizona Diamondbacks 3B Martin Prado
Prado: Good, not great

Why were the Snakes so eager to part with the 25-year-old Upton, who is arguably one of the best young outfielders in the game? Ken Rosenthal suggests Upton didn't fit the culture in Arizona, one that Kirk Gibson is intent on making an intense, high energy group scrappers. The fact that Upton was probably at odds with ownership after they dangled him for three straight years probably didn't help, either.

Well, the Diamondbacks are now left with a squad full of decent, but not overwhelming talent. Prado is a standup player who will hit for a respectable average, but he's probably only going to hit for 15-20 homers at best.

Paul Goldschmidt and up-and-coming outfield prospect Adam Eaton could morph into excellent ballplayers, but they're surely not difference-makers like Upton was. I agree with Rosenthal that Arizona's three big offseason trades that sent Upton, Trevor Bauer and Chris B. Young packing, have left them with a somewhat underwhelming group to contend in the NL West.

What does this mean for Upton?

First and foremost, it'll probably hike his draft day price up a bit, now that he's playing alongside brother B.J. Upton in an outfield that also includes promising outfielder Jason Heyward, which could easily be the best trio of outfielders the majors has to offer this year in terms of straight up talent.

The comfort factor in his new home in Atlanta could be huge. Playing alongside his brother and no longer having to look over his shoulder for what the next trade rumors might bring will probably ease his mind.

His home/road splits are somewhat alarming, though; he's hit for a triple slash line of .307-67-219 in 364 home games at hitter-friendly Chase Field in his career and just .250-41-144 in 367 road contests. That shouldn't completely turn you off, however. He has a career line of .293-1-8 in 58 at-bats at Turner Field. Plus, the move to a new club can always spark new trends, especially for a player yet to reach his prime.

Upton's 31-homer, 21-stolen base 2011 effort shows you the kind of potential he has. His disappointing 17-home run output last year was in part due to a painful left thumb injury that sapped him of much of his power. When healthy, and with no outside distractions, he's the kind of guy that can carry your fantasy baseball squad.

I know the Diamondbacks wanted to make some room for the logjam of outfielders on their roster, but why keep Jason Kubel in favor of a stud that most organizations would love to build their franchise around? I'm still scratching my head.



 


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