Upton Brothers Together Again in Atlanta


The sports world is brimming with brother stories right now. We are headed to the Super Harbaughl, Super Browl, Sup-har Baughl, or whatever else you want to call it. Manti Te’o having a girlfriend that was actually one of his old friends…possibly his old bro? Now we have two dynamic young outfielders playing on the same team as of this morning. The Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract early in the off-season and they have just traded with the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire his brother, Justin Upton.

Atlanta is sending five players; SP Randall Delgado, IF/OF Martin Prado, SS Nick Ahmed, P Zeke Spruill, 1B Brandon Drury and Arizona will send back OF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson. The blockbuster side of this trade is definitely with Atlanta because of the acquisition of Justin Upton. Not only is this a great trade for Atlanta because of the brother storyline that will prevail throughout Atlanta’s season, it is a great trade because it fills multiple holes for the Braves without creating weakness on the major league roster.

Atlanta has spent a lot of their young talent in their system with this trade, however, a lot of their major league roster is still young and they shouldn’t need to dip into their system for years to come. They now have 2 franchise players and a WELL above average player in their outfield with Jason Heyward, 23, B.J. Upton, 28, and now Justin Upton, 25. Not to mention starting Andrelton Simmons, 23, at short stop, Freddie Freeman, 23, at first base and Brian McCann, 28, at catcher. That is amazing in itself, but when you include the young arms they have that are MLB ready, it is truly amazing. The Braves trot out starting pitchers Brandon Beachy (coming back from Tommy Johns Surgery), 26, Julio Teheran, 21, Mike Minor, 25, Kris Medlen, 27, and relief pitchers Jordan Walden, 25, Craig Kimbrel, 24, and Eric O’Flaherty, 27.

Ok, that was a lot of names and ages, I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped the end of that paragraph, but it all amounts to one thing. No matter how depleted the Braves farm system may be (not as much as this trade might make you think), they don’t need any top prospects for years to come. The Atlanta Braves GM, Frank Wren, has done such a good job of building for the future for years that he now sports a team that only needs to plug in veteran bench players and a 3B with the retirement of Chipper Jones. Third base was remedied in the trade as well, with the acquisition of Chris Johnson. Johnson is basically a replacement level player but will likely be pushed to the end of the batting order because of the power and speed of the the entire rest of the lineup. He will hit for some power, 7 HR in 148 AB last season which projects to between 15-20 in a full season, but will strike out a lot.

Having said all that, I am a fan of teams taking a risk on young players that have all the ability in the world, which is exactly what Justin Upton is. Being only 25, Upton has time to improve, but he will at worst be a 20-20 HR-SB guy that can see the ball and play fantastic defense. The Atlanta Braves are selling the farm, literally, to make sure they don’t end up playing the one game wild card and to try to take out many predictor’s NL World Series representative Washington Nationals. The outfield in Atlanta will be exciting and this core should thrive for years and years to come. I can’t wait to watch Atlanta and Washington duke it out for the NL East crown this season.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the Arizona Diamondbacks and what they are getting back for their MVP candidate. The five player acquisition is a nice haul for the Diamondbacks and GM Kevin Towers, especially Randall Delgado.

Delgado is a SP that lives and dies by his different fastballs. He threw is 4-seam fastball the most in 2011 where he was wildly successful but switched to a 2-seam fastball and a cutter in 2012. Either way, his fastball, no matter which way it breaks, runs up at about 92 MPH and he features a curveball and change-up as his other pitches. A young strong armed RHP that has a 3.95 ERA in his first 25 starts is a great building block for a rotation.

The other current major league talent is Martin Prado, along with Cliff Penington, will help Arizona keep their young short stop, Didi Gregorious, in the minors till he is ready. Prado or Pennington will likely shift over to third base to cover the loss of Chris Johnson and to platoon with Eric Chavez. Prado is extremely well liked around the league and will be a great locker room guy to go along with his underrated fielding and hitting. He is a .300 hitter with a bit of power and the potential to get 15-20 steals. He was a fan favorite and will be missed, as Alex Lowe, one of our contributors can tell you.

The other throw-ins for Arizona are actually ranked in the top 20 of Atlanta’s prospects, the only one not is 1B Brandon Drury. SS Nick Ahmed will compete with Didi Gregorious to be called up to be the SS of the future for Arizona. They are both low power guys that are projecting to hit for average and get a high OBP. However, Ahmed may have higher upside because of his speed, he stole 40 bases in the minors in 2012. Didi Gregorious may be closer to the majors, but with Cliff Pennington’s 2-year deal, Ahmed may be ready by the time they are ready to part with Pennington.

Zeke Spruill is a young RHP that has a career 3.58 ERA in the minors and doesn’t let guys get on base easily, but also doesn’t overpower anyone with only 5.83 K/9 and 2.58 BB/9 last season. He is a grinder of a pitcher that features a 90 MPH fastball along with a slider and change-up, a pretty standard set of pitches for the majors. He may add some sort of sinker or modified fastball by the time he makes it to the majors.

The final piece was Class-A first baseman, Brandon Drury. He is a 13th round draft pick of the Braves in 2010 and has been all over the place with his hitting numbers in his 3 years in the minors. He was likely a moderate upside throw in for the Diamondbacks as a possible bench player or back up to long-term 1B Paul Goldschmidt.

This is a good trade for both teams because Arizona felt the need to move Upton and was going to one way or another. I tend to believe that Atlanta was the clear winner of this trade because they dealt positions of depth and strength and acquired a position of need with huge upside potential. Diamondbacks are probably close to status quo after this trade based on overall wins added in the next few seasons, but Atlanta is now ready to challenge Washington for the NL East championship.

About the author: Colby Rogers

Colby is the Editor-in-Chief, Founder and Lead Contributor to Other League. Also a law student focusing on Labor & Employment law and intersections with law and sports. You can find him on Twitter via @Colby_OL.