Movin' on Up: Bossman Junior
May 25, 2004
Tristan H. Cockcroft
Senior Fantasy Writer
Movin' on Up focuses on rookies, recent call-ups and top prospects. Every Tuesday, we provide you with the latest advice and info to help you unearth first-year gems or "keeper" players.
Ladies and gentlemen, the countdown to B.J. Upton's major-league promotion has begun. The 2002 No. 2 overall pick was minutes away from boarding a plane to join the big club in Tampa on May 12, but a last-second call from Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar rerouted him to Triple-A Durham for the finishing touches on his minor-league seasoning.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Upton, 19, received the disappointing call while waiting in the Atlanta airport, as the Rays instead opted to promote Damian Rolls and send Melvin Upton, nicknamed "Bossman Junior" or B.J. for short, to Pennsylvania to join the Durham Bulls.
Is it any surprise LaMar is the subject of constant criticism from Rays fans? Tampa Bay, a team in rebuilding mode, hardly can count on a player like Rolls long-term, and giving a premier prospect like Upton such mixed messages isn't exactly a wise move.
Fortunately, Upton seems unfazed by the change of plans, tearing up the International League in a dozen games. He's batting .375 with five home runs, 11 RBI and three stolen bases, and has logged six multi-hit games in that span. That followed Upton's blazing hot start at Double-A Montgomery -- for the strangely nicknamed Biscuits -- where he batted .327 with two homers, 15 RBI and three steals in 29 games.
Upton's performance should sway LaMar's opinion in the near future, and the smart money has the kid starting at shortstop in Tampa Bay by the All-Star break at the latest. In fact, Upton might already be a major leaguer if it weren't clear he still needs plenty of defensive polish.
B.J. Upton, despite his offensive upside, has committed 70 errors in 171 games as a professional.(Getty Images)
Upton committed a minor-league high 56 errors in 2003, coincidentally the same number Derek Jeter, the man to whom he is most compared, had while with Class A Greensboro in 1993. What's also interesting about that is both Jeter and Upton racked up that high error total while playing the vast majority of their games in the South Atlantic League as 18-year-olds. Jeter did cut that total by more than half the following season, but Upton continues to struggle with the glove, with four errors in 12 games at Durham and 14 in 41 games combined this season.
That's the bad news; the good news is that where Upton's path has gone astray negatively from Jeter's, it has strayed on a positive note from an offensive perspective. Upton seems to be developing more power at a younger age than the Yankee captain, perhaps a result of fierce determination to prove he should have been kept on that flight to Tampa.
At 18 years old -- calculating that number as of opening day in a given season -- Upton and Jeter posted nearly identical minor-league stats, justifying that frequent comparison. At age 19, however, their paths seem more divergent:
B.J. UPTON vs. DEREK JETER
Upton will clearly have to improve his defensive skills with on-the-job training in the majors, which could be a concern based on manager Lou Piniella's desire for solid middle-infield defense. But his increased power numbers suggest he might hit for a slightly lower average than Jeter (traditionally speaking, not his current .190 mark) with 30-homer, 100-RBI potential in his prime. He probably won't adapt to the big leagues as quickly as Jeter, the 1996 AL rookie of the year, but there's upside here in the homer and RBI departments that was never really evident in Jeter's first season.
If Upton is available in your league and you can afford the luxury of stashing him away on reserve for a few more weeks, make the move before it's too late. He's looking far better with the bat than last year's top middle infield prospect, Jose Reyes, did in the minor leagues to begin the season, and Reyes nonetheless got the call last June 10. Reyes went on to hit .307 with five homers, 32 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 69 games, and Upton has the skills to match that with bigger numbers in the power department in the best-case scenario. ...
Last edited by Krunk City King$ on Mon May 31, 2004 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.