Last week, the Atlanta Braves landed Justin Upton, a former number-one draft pick (2005), to play along side newly signed B.J. Upton and Gold Glove-winner Jason Heyward. Justin hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 home runs, 68 runs batted in, and 18 stolen bases last year. It seems like a perfect marriage right? Let’s examine the trade for both sides.
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So, what did the Diamondbacks get in return?
Martin Prado (3B) – Prado recently signed a four-year deal worth $40MM with the Diamondbacks, which makes the deal that much better. It was expected the Diamondbacks would pursue an extension with Prado, and they didn’t waste any time. Prado had gone from super-utility to … well … super-utility with the Braves. He was just that. He was very valuable and a fan-favorite member of the Braves. Prado played five different positions last year as a lineup regular, with 119 games at left field, 25 at third base, 13 at shortstop, 10 at second base and four at first base. He will finally man one position this year, playing third base for the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks will soon realize what the Braves will miss because Prado is so versatile. Because Prado could backup any position, the Braves could get by with carrying an extra pitcher or two on long road trips. So, the 2012 bullpen was well rested. Fredi Gonzalez was used to having a deep bullpen he could evenly distribute the workload with. The Braves may have to carry an extra infielder who can play those positions, but they won’t get the same production level. Prado is a very consistent player. He is a hard-nosed player who will fit extremely well with manager Kirk Gibson’s style of play. Prado has a career average line of .295/.345/.435. He seldom strikes out but also doesn’t walk much. He’s a hit-to-contact type player the Diamondbacks will truly enjoy having.
Randall Delgado (RHP) – Delgado will contend for the fifth starter in the Diamondbacks rotation, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him finish as the number three or four in that rotation. Some Diamondback fans see his line from last year and go “what’s the big deal with this guy?” His line of 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 17 games makes most fans yawn, and on a team that made the playoffs, it raises an eyebrow or two. But don’t let that line fool you. He started off terrible along with top Braves prospect Julio Teheran, but beat Teheran out for the fifth starter position. He finished April with a 6.30 ERA and rebounded nicely with a 3.60 ERA in May. He heated up in June with a 2.79 ERA until imploding against the Red Sox when he pitched 1.1 innings and gave up four runs, six hits and hit a batter. He finished July with a 3.46 ERA until he was sent down after Jurrjens and Hanson came off the DL. Even with the bad game at Boston, after the horrible April, he pitched to a 3.84 ERA. He just never got run support. He’s a good pitcher, and right now, the better pitcher over Teheran. He doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as Teheran, but if you’re looking for a great prospect, he’s the one.
Brandon Drury (INF) – The Braves drafted Drury in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. The Braves were high on Drury even though he’s just the afterthought of the deal. He’s only 20 and got his first extended time in the field last year playing in 123 games in Rome. Brandon took a step back in regard to his power, and we won’t know what he’ll be for another two years.
Nick Ahmed (SS) – Ahmed was expendable as Andrelton Simmons blossomed into a star for the Braves in 2012. Ahmed impressed so much that fans were grumbling whether Dan Uggla should be moved and Ahmed could take over at second. Those thoughts were shot down as Uggla’s contract is unmovable, and the Braves aren’t a team known to eat money. They make their bed and sleep in it, no matter the mess. A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Nick batted .269/.337/.391 in A+ ball. In only 130 games, he clubbed 36 doubles, four triples and six home runs. He’s a very good defender who will make a nice SS or 2B in the future.
Zeke Spruill (RHP) – Zeke was a 2nd round pick out of the 2008 draft that has been brought along very slow by the Braves. Spruill has a career 3.58 ERA in the minors and took another step last year in double-A with a 9-11 record, 3.67 ERA in 27 starts. He has a 2.30 K/BB ratio and should begin the season in AAA for the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks don’t have the loaded pitching talent the Braves have and Zeke will get the chance he deserves with the Diamondbacks. He projects as a solid number five.
The Diamondbacks got a pretty good haul; what about the Braves?
Justin Upton (LF) – Justin will move his stellar defense to left field to round out the Braves outfield. A former overall, number-one pick in the 2005 draft, he hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 home runs and 67 runs batted in. Upton, like brother B.J. and Heyward, has that rare power-speed combo that general managers covet. All three are five-tool players, and with the Upton brothers pushing each other, it could be a very interesting year. If you check out Justin’s stats, you’ll find an interesting pattern. Every other year is a dynamic year. In 2009, he finished 25th in the MVP voting and garnered an All-Star appearance. In 2011, he captured the Silver Slugger, was an All-Star and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Well, here we are, two years later. Will he produce even better than 2011?
Chris Johnson (3B) – Johnson rebounded last year and posted a .281/.326/.451 line with 15 home runs and 76 runs batted in. Much better after posting a line of .251/.291/.378 in 2011. Johnson figures to start at third base for the Braves, but there has been word out of Atlanta they are looking for him to platoon with Juan Francisco. I highly doubt that, as they are the same hitter, and they both hit the same type of pitchers. Johnson finished sixth in grounding into double plays last year and does strike out a lot. The Braves will play whoever is hot at the time, but will more than likely give Johnson the opportunity first.
The Braves gave up an awful lot to get Upton and Johnson, and it’s way too early to decide who’ll win the trade. Most likely, the trade result will not be evident until year three or later. If Upton and Upton fuel each other the way the Braves hope, then a World Series ring isn’t out of the question. There are different scenarios that could create challenges, but on the outside, it looks like a perfect marriage. Neither had imagined playing together this early in their careers, and now they could be together for a long time. Both Uptons are entering their primes, and if they are going to reach the next step and quiet the critics, this is the year.
It should be an interesting year, to say the least, in Atlanta. They’ll have to find a way to lower the strikeouts, as they will almost double what they had last year, but that will have to wait until the next post, folks. So, I’ll leave you with one of the first songs I heard after the trade. It fits right in with the Braves’ Upton brothers. Let’s hope for a great year.