Ron Parker highlights the MLbbro whose performance was most exemplary this week. Los Angeles Angels slugger Justin Upton finally cracks the code and gets his Home Boi Highlights feature.
Normally, a player starting his 15th season in the big leagues is considered on the decline.
But for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Justin Upton, a recent move up the batting order has served as a reminder of why he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft.
With his team struggling to stay in the playoff race without Mike Trout, Angels manager Joe Maddon decided to make a drastic move to spark his lethargic ball club. His decision was to move the power-hitting, four-time All-Star Upton into the leadoff spot.
With Upton now being protected by budding superstar Shohei Ohtani in the lineup, Justin has looked a lot like the three-time Silver Slugger winner the Angels traded for back in 2017.
I’ll say it every time. Justin Upton got one of the prettiest home run swings of all-time. pic.twitter.com/YZKmHfgcwP
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) June 5, 2021
Over his last 15 games, Justin has hit six bombs and driven in 11 while slashing an impressive .309/.424/.727. This offensive explosion from Upton is much needed with Trout still out with a calf injury, and his manager knows it.
“These guys have really come up big, and J-Up, even though he had just the one hit (a leadoff HR), you put up a point on the first swing and you can see what that does to the pitcher,” said Maddon to mlb.com during the start of Upton’s hot streak. “ He pitched relatively well after that, but give up five[runs in the first]. So again, J-up is doing his job. He got us going.”
The decision to move Upton has paid off significantly, as the Angels have won seven of their last ten ballgames. If Upton is able to continue his hot hitting, he may be rewarded with his fifth trip to the All-Star Game.
-11-5 on over 1 in L16 & at least 1 in 14 of 16 w/6 HR & 5 2B
-Leading off for visiting team to maximize opps, decent matchup & AZ bullpen also not good
-Small plus odds w/push chance – we take it pic.twitter.com/o46y06pend
— 👉🏽 Boop the Prop 💰 (@BoopTheProp) June 12, 2021
“Right now, he’s at 14 home runs and 29 RBI on the year,” writes Evan Desani of halohangout.com. “If he continues to hit at the rate he has in these past 15 games, he’ll be at 25 home runs and 41 RBI by the time of the [All-Star] game.”
Numbers that impressive would surely be enough for an All-Star nod. But even without that recognition, Justin Upton’s success is important for the continued growth of the game in the Black community. Something that the Upton family has contributed to in historic fashion throughout the years.
Justin and his older brother, Melvin “B.J.” Upton, are the only two brothers in MLB history to be selected first and second overall in the modern draft era (albeit two different drafts).
The Upton’s are also the first brother duo to make it into the 20-20 club(20 home runs and 20 stolen bases). The due\o have even managed to play together in the same outfield twice as members to the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
B.J. is no longer in the league, but his younger brother Justin has certainly carried the torch in his absence.
Upton’s awakening couldn’t have come at a better time, not only for the Angels but for Black fans around the country.
Reliever Keynan Middleton is back, and the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen has to be happy.
Middleton, who had been out since May 5 with a strained bicep, looked strong in his return on Friday night against the San Diego Padres. In fact, the righthander looked a lot like the budding young talent the Mariners had hoped to be getting this offseason.
Middleton pitched one scoreless inning with a walk in a losing effort for the Mariners. But his strong appearance is another sign that the promising pitcher is returning to pre-Tommy John form.
Once dubbed the closer of the future for the Los Angeles Angels organization, Middleton has shown flashes of dominance out the pen.
During the 2020 season, the average velocity of his fastball returned to pre-TJ form (97.1) while he had also added four mph to his slider and changeup. Despite his return to form physically, the Angels decided to cut ties with the promising reliever this offseason, which led to the Oregon native heading back to the Pacific Northwest.
Now in Seattle, Middleton has been able to showcase the velocity and spin that many in the Angels’ organization were unsure was back for good.
As a result of his recent success, many around the Mariners’ organization think he may force manager Scott Servais into a tough decision.
“The returned fastball velocity is one thing — Middleton probably needs it if he hopes to be a solid reliever,” writes SB Nation’s Michael Ajeto. “But an improved slider is his second prerequisite if he hopes to exist in the form of a potent, dominant reliever … If Middleton continues to surge with his fastball velocity and slider, he may add to that. And within a matter of weeks, that may mean putting Rafael Montero out of a job.”
The emergence of Middleton as a dominant reliever would place him amongst a very small distinguished group. The majority of conversations surrounding the lack of Black pitchers in the major league have focused strictly on starting pitching, but there has been little attention given to the lack of Black relief pitchers.
We rightfully speak of the Black Aces with reverence, but when we begin to speak of legendary Black relievers, most fans simply don’t know where to begin. We remember names like Flash Gordon and Lee Smith, but that’s where most conversations end.
This lack of representation in bullpens across the sport is why Middleton’s resurgence is so important. Gordon and Smith are both Top 100 all-time in saves, yet are barely mentioned when we speak of the greatest relievers of all time.
At just 27 years old, Middleton has the potential to build a reputation as one of the best relievers in the game. Boasting a 3.86 ERA with a .86 WHIP in 11 2/3 innings, all the tools are there.
Only time will tell if he can put it all together, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on him here at MLBbro.com.
Justin Upton is one of the most storied Black baseball players in the history of baseball and he’s gotten some of his swagger back early this season as he currently carries a 10-game hitting streak.
Upton is often overshadowed playing under the bright lights of Los Angeles with three of the most iconic figures in baseball: The best player (Mike Trout) most interesting (Shohei Otani) and one of the greatest hitters ever (Albert Pujols).
Maybe the fewer eyes and pressure on him, the better, as he is getting more pitches to hit and he is not letting those opportunities go to waste as he has gotten a hit in each of his last 10 games heading into Tuesday night’s contest against the Texas Rangers.
Upton is 11 for 39 with a .282 average during the streak. He has 7 RBI’s and has hit 4 home runs, including a 412ft, 103MPH laser to left field Monday at Globelife Field.
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) April 27, 2021
That Upton bomb must have put something in the air as veteran Albert Puljos would go back to back with him.
Upton is the former 1st overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2005 MLB Draft. His brother B.J. was drafted 2nd overall in the 2002 draft. This made the Upton’s the first set of brothers to be picked in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots of any draft.
The brothers also hold the record for most home runs in a single game while on the same team with five, passing Jason and Jeremy Giambi as well as Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero.
They are so much alike that they both decided to hit their 100th career home runs on August 8th of 2012; Justin got his 30 minutes before B.J.
Upton is a four-time all-star and a three-time winner of the Silver Slugger award. He also is fond of hitting deep shots to left on April 26th, which he had done in both 2009 and 2021.
This season Upton is hitting .239 with 5 Home runs and 12 RBI. He has dealt with multiple injuries in years past and is already nearly equaling his home run total from last year. If he can keep this pace up, he can get to the 30 homer mark for the first time since 2018.
On paper, the Angels have one of the best lineups in all of baseball. Pitching will play a key role in their goals to reach the playoffs this season, but in a wide-open American League West, maybe they can hit their way to winning the pennant. Upton’s ability to serve as protection in the lineup for Trout and Ohtani will go a long way towards helping the LA Angels finally get back to the playoffs.
On Sunday the Los Angeles Angels announced that right fielder Dexter Fowler was officially lost for the season with a torn ACL. Initially, it was thought that Fowler sprained his knee after he fell awkwardly last Friday in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dexter Fowler expected to be fine after leaving game with injury https://t.co/kgyXQQjjRY
— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) April 10, 2021
But when Fowler’s MRI revealed the need for season-ending surgery, optimism and reality had a head on collision as the 35-year old was placed on the 60-day DL.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Angels brought another outfielder, Jon Jay, over from their alternative site to fill Fowler’s spot on the roster. A bro for a bro.
Jay isn’t going to move the needle for the Halos, but he’s a World Series champion (2011 St. Louis) and brings nearly 1200 games of major league experience and a career .283 average to the table.
Los Angeles signed Jay to a minor-league deal prior to the season, and he had some moments during spring training.
Jon Jay – Los Angeles Angels (1)* pic.twitter.com/M0rDmgYYhh
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) March 10, 2021
The Angels have to be hoping that Jay can help hold down the fort as they deal with injuries across their outfield. Juan Lagares was placed on the 10-day DL, and Black Knight Justin Upton has been dealing with back stiffness.
He was thrust into action against the Kansas City Royals Tuesday night, going 1-for-4 in a 3-2 loss that dropped the Angels to 7-4.
Even when they have been healthy, Fowler, Lagares, and Upton had been struggling. The trio has combined for a .190 batting average, with only 12 hits in 63 at-bats, and produced just eight runs and six RBI with 19 strikeouts.
With that in mind and Jay’s limitations, the Angels may have to look deeper into their talent pool to keep their offense going.
Angels fans are already clamoring for Jo Adell. Adell filled in last season for Los Angeles but wasn’t ready for the big leagues just yet. His batting average hovered below .200 and more than 44 percent of his at-bats ended in strikeouts.
There were also moments like this, where Adell turned the momentum of games singlehandedly. If Real Deal Akil Baddoo can make the leap from Class A Ball to starting centerfielder for the Detroit Tigers, then Adell (who has a similar skillset) is ready to rock out as well.
Star in the making.
— MLB (@MLB) September 6, 2020
This spring, manager Joe Maddon spoke highly of Adell’s development before sending him to AAA for more seasoning.
“I think he’s made a lot of progress actually,” Maddon said. “At the plate, his swing is so much shorter, his strides so much more under control. Because his foot is getting down sooner, the bat’s not moving around and wrapping as much. He looks so much better on defense, he’s been working really hard.”
Jo Adell’s swing, mechanics, and approach look significantly better this spring. pic.twitter.com/uPmIJla7Xl
— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) March 8, 2021
The Angels haven’t been in a rush to promote Adell, their highest-rated prospect since Mike Trout, but his timetable may be accelerated if the club can’t get some consistent production from its bench.
“He just needs to play baseball,” Maddon said. “He needs nine innings of baseball on a consistent basis. He needs to take all the stuff he’s learned and put it into a game. That’s the next step for him. Because I have a lot of faith in him and I like what he’s doing. He needs to play and doesn’t need to be on anybody’s bench right now.”
Keep an eye out, because Jo Adell could be getting those innings very soon. The Angels have nothing to lose and everything to gain.