The topic of Justin Upton and his prospects as a franchise cornerstone for a major league team, to this point in his career, have been polarizing. What happened to the days where players developed in the big leagues and fans, critics and organizations alike all shared a common patience? Those days are long gone and we have to look no further than this year’s AL and NL Rookies of the Year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Players seemed to have much more time to develop both at the minor and major league level as recently as the 90s. But with the influx of technology, coverage, scouting and just all around hype, the clock is ticking ever so quickly on highly touted prospects to grow into the players they are hoped and projected to be. Intensifying that topic and stifling the patience of teams and fans were the seasons turned in by both Trout and Harper.
As a 19 year old, Trout hit the majors in 2011 for the Angels as a highly touted prospect. After being drafted in the 2009 amateur draft, it took Trout almost exactly 2 years following the draft to reach the majors after absolutely tearing up the minor leagues and making the 24 teams that passed on him in the first round shake their heads with 20/20 regret. Trout wasn’t overwhelming in his 40 game stint at the end of the 2011 season, the polar opposite of what he was in his ROY 2012 season. Trout’s name was imbedded in the AL MVP conversation and his path from prospect to major league star was one of the quickest and most successful in recent memory.
Bryce Harper’s named has been bandied about since he was in high school, when he left early to make himself eligible for the 2010 amateur draft at the age of 17. Harper was the number one draft pick of the Nationals in the 2010 amateur draft and began his professional career in the Nationals farm system, not turning 19 until the end of his first professional season. Like Trout, Harper also had a quick path to the majors, arriving in Washington less than two years from being drafted. Harper played a significant role in propelling the Nationals to a division title and picking up the National League Rookie of the Year in the process.
Like both Trout and Harper, Justin Upton was also a highly touted draft pick being selected by the Diamondbacks number one overall in the 2005 amateur draft. Upton too had a quick path to the majors contributing to the team’s NL West championship season of 2007 in which Arizona fell to Colorado in the NLCS. The expectations and the microscope started from there.
From the perspective of many, Upton has still yet to live up to those expectations and has been firmly planted under that microscope since his debut in 2007. Most in baseball have preached patience with the faith that Upton has the tools and skills to be the player worthy of a franchise cornerstone first round pick. Others have begun to grow weary that Upton has peaked and is merely an above average, everyday major league outfielder. At this point in his career, it appears to be unclear whether or not Upton will live up to the expectations of a number one overall draft pick
What is clear is that Trout and Harper’s ROY seasons of 2012 aren’t doing Upton any favors and if anything, speeding up the clock on Upton and decreasing the patience of the franchise and fans alike. It could be said that Trout and Harper could be the very reason to maintain patience with Upton, believing that he is on the brink of realizing his potential. From a Diamondbacks fan perspective, here’s to hoping Arizona gives him a chance to validate himself before they decide to go in a different direction.