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Tag:Justin Upton
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Harper would join short list of 19-year-olds

As CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman wrote, the Nationals plan to give 19-year-old Bryce Harper a real chance to make their team out of spring training.

In fact, one Nationals official told me he believes that Harper should make it, and that even though he is still learning, "he can help you win while he learns."

Besides, it's not unheard of for a 19-year-old to play in the big leagues. Mike Trout did it for 14 games with the Angels last summer. Both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) did it.

Alex Rodriguez played in the big leagues when he was still 18 years old.

But according to research through baseball-reference.com, Harper would be the first 19-year-old to break camp with a team since Felix Hernandez with the 2006 Mariners, and the first position player to do it since Andruw Jones with the 1997 Braves.

Harper will be 19 years, 172 days old when the Nationals open their season on April 5 in Chicago. King Felix (19.118 when he debuted in August 2005) was the last big leaguer that young, and Adrian Beltre (19.078 when he debuted in June 1998) was the last position player that young.

A look the 19-year-olds who have played in the big leagues since 2000:

-- Trout played 14 games with the Angels last July, hitting just .163 with a .492 OPS.

-- Justin Upton was 23 days shy of his 20th birthday when the Diamondbacks called him up in 2007.

-- Hernandez came to the big leagues to stay at age 19.

-- B.J. Upton was 18 days shy of his 20th birthday when he debuted with the Rays in August 2004.

-- Jose Reyes debuted with the Mets the day before he turned 20 in June 2003.

-- Wilson Betemit came up with the Braves as a 19-year-old in September 2001.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Harper would join short list of 19-year-olds

As CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman wrote, the Nationals plan to give 19-year-old Bryce Harper a real chance to make their team out of spring training.

In fact, one Nationals official told me he believes that Harper should make it, and that even though he is still learning, "he can help you win while he learns."

Besides, it's not unheard of for a 19-year-old to play in the big leagues. Mike Trout did it for 14 games with the Angels last summer. Both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) did it.

Alex Rodriguez played in the big leagues when he was still 18 years old.

But according to research through baseball-reference.com, Harper would be the first 19-year-old to break camp with a team since Felix Hernandez with the 2006 Mariners, and the first position player to do it since Andruw Jones with the 1997 Braves.

Harper will be 19 years, 172 days old when the Nationals open their season on April 5 in Chicago. King Felix (19.118 when he debuted in August 2005) was the last big leaguer that young, and Adrian Beltre (19.078 when he debuted in June 1998) was the last position player that young.

A look the 19-year-olds who have played in the big leagues since 2000:

-- Trout played 14 games with the Angels last July, hitting just .163 with a .492 OPS.

-- Justin Upton was 23 days shy of his 20th birthday when the Diamondbacks called him up in 2007.

-- Hernandez came to the big leagues to stay at age 19.

-- B.J. Upton was 18 days shy of his 20th birthday when he debuted with the Rays in August 2004.

-- Jose Reyes debuted with the Mets the day before he turned 20 in June 2003.

-- Wilson Betemit came up with the Braves as a 19-year-old in September 2001.
Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 3:40 pm
 

On the final day, Braun got my vote

As I wrote on the final Sunday of the regular season, the National League MVP race was so close that I wouldn't decide until the season was over.

When it was, I picked Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp.

So did the majority of the voters, which is why Braun is this year's NL MVP.

Kemp had an outstanding season. So did Braun.

Braun had a huge impact on the pennant race. Kemp, basically through no fault of his own, did not.

The MVP is an individual award, but baseball is a team game. Everything you do is affected by your teammates.

And in my mind, it's hard (but not impossible) to be the MVP when your teammates aren't good enough to help you contend for a championship.

Would my vote have been different had Kemp won the Triple Crown, as he had a chance to do in the final weeks of the season?

It's possible it would have been. You'll never know, because I'll never know. I never had to make that decision.

I had to decide based on what did happen, and what happened was that Braun's great season helped his team to a championship, while Kemp's great season kept his team from losing more games than it won.

My ballot:

1. Braun.

2. Kemp.

3. Prince Fielder. For the first part of the season, he was even better than Braun. For the whole year, Braun got the edge.

4. Albert Pujols. He started slow (for him), and then he was hurt. But he came back strong, and so did his team.

5. Lance Berkman. Without him, the Cardinals would have been buried early.

6. Roy Halladay. The Phillies were the dominant team in the regular season, and their starting pitching was the reason. The problem was that it was hard to separate out one starter.

7. Justin Upton. Great year, great story, but his home-road split (1.033 OPS at home, .767 on road) held him down.

8. Cliff Lee. Based on June (5-0, 0.21) and August (5-0, 0.45), he was the MVP. For the full season, he just makes the ballot.

9. Joey Votto. Didn't repeat his 2010 season, so he won't repeat as MVP.

10. Carlos Ruiz. His numbers are nowhere near MVP-worthy. I gave him a 10th-place vote because of the impact he has on the Phillies pitching, which was so good that if I could have voted for the rotation as a whole, they would have been the MVP.


Posted on: August 17, 2011 8:59 pm
 

With Arizona winning, Upton is in MVP race

PHILADELPHIA -- Kirk Gibson has pushed the idea that the Diamondbacks could be like his 1988 Dodgers, that they could win without big stars.

They are winning. But Justin Upton is turning into a big star.

"He's got to be an MVP candidate," Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz said Wednesday. "Just like Ian Kennedy's got to be a Cy Young candidate."

Kennedy is 15-3 with a 3.12 ERA, which should put him in the running but probably leaves him trailing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and perhaps even Clayton Kershaw in the National League Cy Young race.

But Upton? Putz is right. If the Diamondbacks hold onto their surprising lead in the NL West, their 23-year-old right fielder would have a real chance at becoming one of the youngest players ever to win the Most Valuable Player award.

He won't be the youngest. Fred Lynn was 23 when he was both the MVP and the rookie of the year with the 1975 Red Sox. Upton turns 24 next week.

But Albert Pujols didn't win his first MVP until he was 25. Barry Bonds didn't win until he was 26. Alex Rodriguez was 28 the first time he won.

Entering play Wednesday, Upton led the league in doubles, total bases and extra-base hits. He had a .305 batting average, 25 home runs, 75 RBI and a .939 OPS.

"He's a difference-maker," bench coach Alan Trammell said.

"We've been playing well, and he's been pushing the train," said Chris Young.

There are other big candidates. Both Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun of the Brewers have huge numbers. Matt Kemp has had a great year with the Dodgers, although he'll lose votes because his team hasn't been in the race.

But if the Diamondbacks win the division, Upton certainly has a chance, whether he wants to hear it or not.

"I just brush it off," he said. "I want to get this team to the playoffs, whether it's with me doing it or someone else, just get there."


Posted on: August 17, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:50 pm
 

Diamondbacks are the true surprise team

PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates have fallen back under .500.

The Indians have fallen out of first place.

The summer of surprise in baseball seems to have ended a little early . . . unless you count the Diamondbacks.

And why shouldn't we be counting them?

"These guys have been flying under the radar," said Lyle Overbay, who spent the first four months of the season with the surprising Pirates, and is in his first week with the surprising Diamondbacks.

They lost more games last year than the Indians did. They looked as bad this spring as the Indians and Pirates, too.

And almost three weeks into August, the Diamondbacks began play Wednesday 3 1/2 games up on the defending World Series champions.

They're far from the point that we should consider them a lock for the postseason, and in fact that 3 1/2-game lead shrunk to 2 1/2 games on Wednesday night. It's worth remembering that the Padres held a four-game lead over the Giants on this date a year ago, and that the Diamondbacks held a 4 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers in late August 2008.

"We fell apart at the seams [that year]," Justin Upton said.

It took two years to put them back together, two years of 90-plus losses. It took two managerial changes, a general manager change, and enough roster turnover so that Upton, Chris Young and injured shortstop Stephen Drew are the only regulars remaining from that team.

It took Upton becoming a true MVP candidate at age 23, after a winter in which the Diamondbacks briefly considered trading him away.

But here they are, the only one of baseball's surprise teams that's still in a playoff spot, a spot that would most likely see them right back here in Philadelphia in six weeks' time. Here they are, the surprise team that got overlooked while we were focused on those other surprise teams.

"That's OK," Young said. "If everybody's talking about you too much, maybe your head gets too big. But if nobody's talking about you, maybe your confidence gets down."

The Diamondbacks seem to have little problem with confidence. They're 3-1 this year against the Phillies, including a Tuesday night win in which they became the first team ever (in 53 attempts) to come from behind in the ninth inning to beat Roy Halladay.

"We feel like we can play at this level, no doubt," Upton said.

The Diamondbacks came into their clubhouse after that game and watched the second-place Giants lose in extra innings against the Braves. But those who were there noticed that the Diamondbacks weren't fixated on the Giants, and didn't spend much time celebrating their loss.

"As long as we win, it's fine," closer J.J. Putz said.

As with so many other things that Diamondbacks players say, those words could easily have come out of manager Kirk Gibson's mouth.

There's no doubt that Gibson sets the tone for this team. They believe in themselves the way he believed in himself, and they fight back the way he fought back (as evidenced by their big-league high 35 come-from-behinid wins).

He would never want to admit surprise, because he begins every season thinking his team can win. Besides, he would never celebrate staying in the race through mid-August.

"We'll stay humble," Gibson said. "We've accomplished nothing. We put our head in there the first day of the season -- the Diamondbacks are in. The only thing we can say now is that the Diamondbacks are still in."

They're still in, while the Pirates have slid out and the Indians are in danger of doing the same.

There is a surprise team in baseball this year. The Diamondbacks are it.



Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:50 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Justin Upton, All-Star host (but not recruiter)

PHOENIX -- Maybe it's just as well that Justin Upton didn't use the All-Star Game to recruit free agents to sign with the Diamondbacks.

It didn't exactly work for Torii Hunter.

Last year in Anaheim, the Angels put Carl Crawford's locker right next to Hunter's, and Hunter spent two days extolling the virtues of playing in Southern California to Crawford and the other All-Stars.

Crawford, of course, signed with the Red Sox.

Upton is the All-Star host this year, playing the role Hunter played last year -- minus the free-agent recruiting.

"No, I can't think that far ahead," he said with a smile before Tuesday's game.

Asked if he had told any All-Star teammates how great it is to play in Arizona, Upton said he didn't need to.

"They're seeing it," he said.
Posted on: March 3, 2010 6:03 pm
 

On Upton and greatness

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The best thing Justin Upton said today was the simplest.

"I want to be great," he said, as the Diamondbacks announced his six-year, $51.25 million contract.

"I'm glad he said that," manager A.J. Hinch said later.

The Diamondbacks have committed more money to Upton than they've committed to any player but Randy Johnson. And more than money, they've committed to this group of players, the group that flopped last summer.

No, Upton didn't flop. Far from it. And Mark Reynolds hit 44 home runs. And if ace Brandon Webb didn't get hurt one game in, perhaps the season would have been different.

But now Webb is coming back, and now it's up to the Diamondbacks players to show that management's faith in this group is justified.

"Everybody always says it, but I'm real excited about this group," Upton said. "I think we're one of the better teams in the league. I expect to win, and the guys in this clubhouse expect to win."

He expects to be great, which is probably a little easier to say when you've been a first overall draft pick, and then an All-Star at age 21. And when you just signed a $51.25 million contract that only takes you through age 27.

He wants to be great.

Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with saying it.

*****

The bigger question for the Diamondbacks is how soon Webb will be ready to pitch. Hinch said that Webb will throw another bullpen Thursday morning, and that the team hopes -- but isn't certain -- that in his next time out after that, Webb could face life hitters.

As of now, Hinch isn't ready to say when Webb will be able to pitch in a spring training game, although the hope remains that he'll be ready to open the season in the rotation.

Hinch has already named Dan Haren his opening day starter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com