The Justin Upton Trade
Prado is an extremely useful player because of his ability to play a number of different positions. However, he is four years older than Upton (Prado will be 29 in 2013, while Upton will be 25), and there’s just no way Prado has anywhere near Upton’s upside, even taking park factors into account.
Delgado, who is originally from Panama, is definitely a legitimate prospect, but I’m not sure he’s a can’t miss. He’ll be 23 next year and already has 127.2 innings pitched in the majors under his belt. He hasn’t had major league command so far, but he definitely has major league stuff. His career minor league record of 27-42 isn’t impressive, but his minor league pitching line of 582.1 IP, 527 hits and 221 walks allowed, and 620 strikeouts is.
Zeke Spruill and Nick Ahmed are both former 2nd round draft picks, but Ahmed looks like the better prospect. Spruill in 20 starts at Class A+ Lynchburgh and 34 starts at AA Mississippi over the last two seasons struck out 214 batters in 336.1 innings pitched, which isn’t enough at these levels. However, he’s young and appears to be a strike thrower and a ground ball pitcher (at least based on his HR totals), so he could develop into a major league pitcher, although probably not a particularly good one.
Ahmed at age 22 in 2012 hit .269 with a .337 OBP and a .728 OPS at Class A+ Lynchburg, after playing 59 games in a rookie league in 2011 with similar numbers. I don’t think we’ll really know what kind of a prospect he is until he plays in AA ball in 2013. However, he does have power potential (46 extra base hits last season), and he runs extremely well (40 stolen bases in 50 attempts).
Brandon Drury hit extremely well in rookie ball in 2011 (.347 batting average and .891 OPS) at age 18, but hit very little at Class A at age 19 in 2012 (.229 batting average and .603 OPS). As a 1Bman, he’s going to have to hit and hit a lot to make the majors.
With the retirement of Chipper Jones and the loss of Martin Prado, the Braves needed a 3Bman, and they got one in Chris Johnson. Johnson hits well enough for a 3rd sacker, but he can’t handle the hot corner defensively (.931 career fielding percentage at the position). I’d suggest that the Braves try to convince Chipper Jones come back for one more year as a platoon player, but Johnson is one of those rare players who hits better against the platoon (at least so far in his major league career — .775 against right-handers and .667 against lefties as a right-handed batter).
D’Backs’ GM Kevin Towers was quoted as saying Justin Upton needs a change of scenery, which I think is code for the fact that too much was expected of Upton too soon in Arizona. I think that playing with his brother B. J. in a very African American city as he comes into his prime years will be a very, very good situation for Justin and the Braves.
The Braves should have a tremendous outfield with the Uptons and Jason Heyward the next few seasons. Of course, there’s also the very real possibility that they could strike out 500 times a season between them. However, 500 strike outs doesn’t hurt so much if it also comes with 90+ home runs a year.
It’s no secret that African Americans have largely lost interest in baseball over the last 25 years. It will be interesting to see if the Braves’ new all-black and potentially all-superstar outfield creates a new generation of black baseball fans in a city with a large African American middle class. Even if it doesn’t, the current Braves’ fan base is probably going to be very happy with the results they get from their new outfield.