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.