The Upton Trade from a former Osprey angle

by Ben Catley

So the Arizona Diamondbacks finally pulled the trigger on trading Justin Upton. To the D-backs, they were waiting to make the right deal, and while some of their targets changed, and some of the names from the Atlanta Braves are not what most had hoped for, they managed to be able to make a move in mass numbers to make it a deal worth doing.

Of course, if you ask what the general feel is on the trade … well, some really don’t like it. Others felt it wasn’t the best idea, but it could turn out fine. And others will wait to see what happens with anxiousness.

The tendency, however, for a Missoula Osprey fan to be wondering is – what does this mean for our guys??

This can be looked at from two levels – the most recent wave of players who have been here, and the current Osprey alumni roaming the outfield on the D-backs roster.

For the guys with the D-backs now … it’s EatonMania runnin’ wild again!! OK, I told myself I would not use that as much as I have in the past, but it has been a while … so, why not.

What the move does is pretty much clinches that Adam Eaton (2010) will not only begin the season on the Opening Day roster, but, if he is healthy (and from what we’re hearing, all is well) and performs well in camp, he’s likely the starter in center. Nedd proof? From the press conference just a bit ago … D-backs GM Kevin Towers on the current leading hitter in Osprey history:

“We wanted to find a way to get Adam Eaton playing for us in center field, where he can be our table-setter and our leadoff-type hitter, which we accomplished.”

 

Gerardo Parra (2006) moves up on the rotation and will likely move to right field, with Cody Ross taking Parra’s old role – which will still net him a lot of at-bats. Both Parra and Ross can play all three outfield positions, but with Jason Kubel likely staying now and patrolling left field, it prompts some shuffling. Where do I get this? Read here. Don’t forget that Eric Hinske is in the outfield mix, too, although we shall see how much he is used.

Don’t get me wrong – Eaton is not an equal replacement for Upton, because they are two different players. Upton is a corner outfielder with power and some speed who, for much of his D-backs career, has not been what people were expecting. Except for 2011, when Upton was an MVP candidate, the former top pick for the D-backs did not meet those heavy expectations. Eaton is a leadoff hitter who is as pesky as they come, and will get better as the season, and his career, rolls on. As long as he plays with that chip on his shoulder he has had since he signed his pro contract in June 2010, Eaton will be just fine.

The good news is, the D-backs believe that they are deeper in the outfield now than they have been in quite some time, including through the farm system. Which gets us to the more recent players who have come through Missoula.

I will throw out two names to keep an eye on over the next four years – Evan Marzilli and Socrates Brito. Both 2012 alumni could eventually find themselves in the mix. The key will be their first full season run, which if all goes well, will begin this spring at either South Bend or Visalia. Both have the potential – and if they finish June or July above .300, they may end up in Visalia or Mobile before the end of the season. If anyone ends up making that jump, I would expect it would be Marzilli, with that college seasoning. Also – whomever ends up with Marzilli should feel like he’s a good luck charm, since his streak of championship years remains intact and sits at five straight (2008-2012).

Brito has a solid shot, too, especially if his defense continues to improve, and he gets consistent. He can hit, albeit streaky … of course, when he’s on, he has the ability to put video-game-like numbers on the board. When he’s not … well, it’s the opposite. The defense, however, could be the thing that determines whether or not he gets out of Class A baseball sooner or later.

Which leads me to a not-so-recent outfielder, Keon Broxton (2009). His brief run in the Triple-A playoffs was capped off with a mammoth home run during the Triple-A Championship Game (and two hits in the Reno win) to cap off a solid 2012 for the 3rd-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, and the D-backs opened up another spot on their 40-man roster today by designating infielder Lars Anderson for assignment. That should mean that the D-backs will not have to make any moves to accommodate the players received in the Upton trade (Martin Prado and pitcher Randall Delgado).

That should help Broxton stay in the MLB Spring Training camp a little longer – the better look he can give the D-backs, the better his chances become of making the jump to the Major Leagues. Just ask Adam Eaton how face time in big-league camp can be an aide.

Of course, with the World Baseball Classic taking place (and the fact that Parra will take part in it and be away from camp for a bit), Broxton and other prospects will get more of a look. It’s unknown who the D-backs would have moved if they had to open up another roster spot on their full 40-man roster. The other three players involved – pitcher Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and third baseman Brandon Drury – will likely be assigned to minor-league camp.

Broxton is coming off of his most consistent year offensively in his full-season professional career – hitting .267 in 130 games for Class A Advanced Visalia, with a .736 OPS, 19 home runs, 62 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Broxton should be at Double-A Mobile, if all goes to plan, this coming season. Unless, of course, he opens up enough eyes to stay at Triple-A Reno.

It also has an effect at another position – third base.

Keeping in mind that the newly-acquired Drury (who has also played first base in the minors) is likely going to primarily play at third, the D-backs may have a third-sacker who, with a strong 2013 season, could get a little closer to the Major Leagues in Jake Lamb (2012). While Drury’s pattern of cold-and-hot seasons should net him a strong 2013 season, Lamb will be tested to see how he will follow up on his very solid debut season in Missoula. Lamb hit .329 with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, and 36 total extra-base hits (he also had 22 doubles and five triples). If he can produce at the next level, over a full season, Lamb may jump up the ladder … not quite to the Matt Davidson level, but progress could be made, none the less.

All in all … it will make for a very interesting D-backs camp beginning next month.

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