By: Kurt Snyder
If you aren’t that familiar with Justin Upton, well, I must admit I have a lot to learn myself. And since he is the next big thing in Detroit, he’s going to be a familiar topic of discussion as we progress towards Lakeland. But, there is much to learn.
So let’s start with some family trivia and then address our new “5-tool” leftfielder.
Many know that the Upton family is blessed to have 2 brothers playing major league baseball together; and a fair amount of time on the same team.
Incredibly, in 2002, Melvin Upton was drafted #2 overall, a big time honor for sure. Well, three years later, Justin was drafted #1 overall in 2005, making them the only brothers in baseball to ever be selected in the #1 and #2 slots of any first round draft.
The brothers Upton didn’t stop there. On June 2, 2009, Justin was named NL Player of the Month for May. Not to be outdone, Melvin earned AL Player of the Month for June, making them the first pair of brothers to win player of the month honors in the same year.
Is that it? Not quite. These guys have really littered the record books together in their young careers. Check this one out:
On August 3, 2012, Justin hit his 100th career home run. What happened only 30 minutes later? That’s right; his big brother hit his 100th career home run in another ballgame.
It’s been said that twins do a lot of things together. But that would be the only thing that would make the story of these 2 brothers even cooler. However they aren’t twins; they are 3 years apart. But they seem to like to do a lot of the same things. Amazing stuff, huh? I thought so, too.
JUSTIN UPTON: THE “5-TOOL” TALENT
Overtime, Justin Upton has distanced himself from his brother Melvin. He has become the much better player. In fact, Justin has been listed in the vastly-overused category of “5-Tool Players.”
For those who were sitting in the back of the room and fell asleep during the 5-Tool lecture in Baseball 101, here are the qualifications required of players to be accepted into this exclusive club:
1) Hitting for Power
2) Hitting for Average
3) Fielding Ability
4) Throwing Ability
Well, what we have learned over time is that most players described as 5-tool players, just aren’t. When they arrive in the big leagues, our math skills are suddenly severely challenged and we just can’t count to 5. You see, to qualify, you must be great, and I mean great, in all of the above categories. So after Mike Trout, quick, give me 5 names. I think Trout is the one major leaguer who comes close.
Baseball has to quit throwing “5 tools” around so much. Yoenis Cespedes was described as a 5-tooler out of Cuba. But to date, both he and Upton have career averages of .271. Sorry, that’s solid but not enough to qualify for a 5-tool description. You had better be hitting .300.
Also, 5-toolers don’t have high strikeout totals. Both Justin Upton and Cespedes do. And 5-toolers don’t lead the league in outfielder errors like Upton has in multiple seasons.
The same description was thrown around to describe Cameron Maybin when he came up with the Tigers, and his much-advertised lofty skill set certainly helped the Tigers snag Miguel Cabrera.
You see, when you sprinkle around enough flowers, you can hide a lot of weeds. Dave Dombrowski was and is very good at that. Perception is everything, and the perception that accompanied Cameron Maybin was close to “all world.” Fans hated to see him go, but quickly forgot about him as he underwhelmed for years, having not met the lofty expectations.
Hopefully I haven’t burst your bubble on a couple new Tigers you were hoping would be big stars for their new team in Detroit. They could still very well be. You just need to know that both have not lived up to, in most cases, unrealistic expectations.
This is a team sport. And both Upton and Maybin are going to help this team, especially Upton. The Tigers, given how much money they have invested, obviously think a lot of Justin Upton, and well they should; he is a tremendous talent. And Maybin brings additional athleticism to this team which can’t be understated.
The Tiger outfield is in tremendous shape. And Justin is going to fit in quite nicely, with or without Melvin.