Next stop, stardom: 2011 breakout picks – Justin Upton

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Justin Upton has yet to become the MVP-caliber superstar expected from the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft and actually took a major step backward last season following a very strong 2009 performance, but I’m not sure most people fully realize just how rare it is for someone to be as productive as Upton’s been at such a young age.

He’s hit .272 with a .352 on-base percentage and .471 slugging percentage through 422 career games while averaging 21 homers and 72 RBIs per 600 plate appearances, which looks like good but not great production until you note that Upton made his MLB debut at age 19 and is still just 23 years old.

Here’s the complete list of all the players in the past 50 years to get at least 1,500 appearances through age 22 and post a higher OPS than Upton: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, Cesar Cedeno. That’s it. That’s the whole list. And filling out the rest of the top 10, directly behind Upton on the list, are Johnny Bench, Andruw Jones, and Rickey Henderson. Suddenly the fact that his OPS dipped slightly below .800 last season doesn’t seem so damning, does it?

Upton’s high strikeout rate sticks out as a potential red flag for his development, but he’s already flashed 30-homer power and 20-steal speed to go along with above-average plate discipline and a good glove in right field. In terms of raw ability and physical tools very few players are in Upton’s league and he’s on the verge of making a name for himself–and surpassing his brother, B.J. Upton of the Rays–as one of the elite outfielders in the game.

My other 2011 breakout picks: Carlos Santana, Colby Rasmus, Derek HollandBrandon Morrow.

Report: Padres have discussed trading Wil Myers for Mariners’ Jean Segura and Mike Leake

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Padres have discussed with the Mariners a potential trade in which outfielder Wil Myers would head to Seattle in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and starter Mike Leake. Leake would need to waive his no-trade clause in order to make the deal work.

Myers has four years and $64 million remaining on his contract with a $20 million club option for 2023 as well. Segura has four years and $58 million remaining with a $17 million club option for 2023. Leake is under contract for two more years with $36 million remaining as well as an $18 million mutual option for 2021.

This past season, Myers battled elbow, oblique, and foot injuries last season, limiting him to 83 games and 343 plate appearances. He hit .253/.318/.446 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI, 39 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases. Myers played all over the field for the Padres, spending time at third base and both outfield corners as well as first base and a brief inning in center. If Myers were to go to Seattle, he would likely handle first base on a full-time basis.

2018 marked an All-Star campaign for Segura, who hit .304/.341/.415 with 10 home runs, 63 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 632 plate appearances. Baseball Reference tallies him at 13 WAR over the last three seasons, so he would certainly be an impact player for the Padres. Rosenthal suggests Segura could handle shortstop for the Padres until top prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. is ready. Segura would then move to second base. Alternatively, Tatis could potentially move to third base.

Leake, 31, is essentially a throw-in player in the deal. This past season, the right-hander put up middling numbers, finishing 10-10 with a 4.36 ERA and a 119/34 K/BB ratio in 185 2/3 innings. He would have no problem slotting into the Padres’ rotation.

Rosenthal takes care to point out that this suggested deal is not believed to be close, but it is notable that such a swap is being considered. On Monday, the Mariners traded starter James Paxton to the Yankees. The Mariners are believed to be setting their sights further down the line to be competitive. It could become a full-blown rebuilding effort. It’s a shame because the Mariners had a solid 2018, finishing 89-73, but they finished 14 games behind the Astros and were even eight games behind the second-place Athletics. The way front offices approach competing these days, finishing above .500 but out of the postseason isn’t good enough.