- Full name Melvin Emanuel Upton
- Born 08/21/1984 in Norfolk, VA
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 185 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Greenbrier Christian Academy
- Debut 08/02/2004
Drafted in the 1st round (2nd overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2002 (signed for $4,600,000).
View Draft ReportEven if the Pirates don't take him, Upton is the consensus top-ranked player in the draft. He has the complete package. He's athletic, has all the tools and is an exciting player to watch. And he's by far the best player at a premium position. On the standard 20-80 scouting scale, he has a 75-80 arm (he can throw 90 mph across the diamond and 92 off a mound) and 70 speed (he runs the 60 in 6.55 seconds). He has good hands and excellent first-step acceleration, which is evident in both fielding balls and running the bases. His range for a middle infielder is outstanding. The only questions concern his bat. He has a wiry build with a chance for power but needs to get stronger. Scouts compare Upton to a young Derek Jeter, right down to the swagger. Upton is further along in his development than Jeter at a comparable age. He's more physically mature than Jeter, who developed his physique in pro ball, and has better power. Upton is just 17 and will play at that age throughout his first professional season. Scouts are curious how he'll handle the pressure of experiencing failure for the first time, since he's rarely failed at any step of his baseball career.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Upton may not even end up as the highest-drafted player in his family. Younger brother Justin, a high school junior, is a candidate to go first in the 2005 draft. By then, B.J. likely will be starting for the Devil Rays at shortstop--at age 20. After signing for a $4.6 million bonus in September 2002, Upton made his pro debut last year at low Class A Charleston. After looking overmatched in April, Upton made adjustments and hit .411 in July to earn a two-step promotion to Double-A Orlando. He showed the Devil Rays everything they could have hoped for and was named the top prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League as well as the Arizona Fall League. You could make a case for Upton as the top prospect in the minor leagues. Upton is one of the few players who truly possesses five plus tools. His arm strength and speed grade close to 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his bat speed is easily a 70. He's a poised hitter with an excellent idea of what he wants to accomplish at the plate, and he's capable of driving the ball to all fields. He showed the ability to work counts, even after his jump to Double-A, drawing an organization-high 73 walks. Considering his wiry frame, he has surprising raw power. Upton has enough pop to eventually hit 30 homers on an annual basis. Within the organization, only blazer Joey Gathright can top his baserunning talents. Defensively, Upton's range and quickness are unparalleled, and his footwork is outstanding. He's aggressive in the field and on the basepaths, and considers virtually any ball he can reach to be an out. Upton led the minors with 56 errors. Many came when he either sat back too long on grounders or tried to make difficult plays with his cannon arm. He worked on his footwork and double-play feeds to the second baseman in the AFL. By charging more balls, Upton should improve his defense and become an all-around star. The only other thing he needs is experience. He should continue to improve because of his athleticism and work ethic. Upton is cruising along the fast track to the majors. The Rays have been looking for a cornerstone shortstop since day one--remember when they traded Bobby Abreu for Kevin Stocker?--and haven't found one. Their wait should end in the near future with Upton. Tampa Bay hasn't been shy about giving such players as Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli jobs in the big leagues before they were completely ready, and that could be the case with Upton as well. Unless he struggles at Double-A Montgomery or Triple-A Durham, he should make his debut at Tropicana Field at some point in 2004. It's not unrealistic to pencil him in as the Rays' starting shortstop on Opening Day 2005.
Considered the top position player in the 2002 draft, Upton went second overall and negotiated all summer with the Rays before coming to terms on a $4.6 million bonus in mid-September. After suffering a bout with dehydration during his first day in instructional league, Upton displayed the skills to suggest he's ready for the fast track. Upton is a premier athlete with pure five-tool potential. His cannon-strong arm is his most impressive asset. Upton has a fluid body, his range at shortstop is exceptional, and he has 6.5-second speed in the 60-yard dash. Upton hits to all fields and has excellent power potential. His wiry frame suggests more pop awaits. The only major item on Upton's to-do list is to get stronger so he can handle major league pitching. It's a minor concern, and scouts don't harbor any doubts that he'll be an effective hitter. Upton is the type of player who could help put the Rays on the major league map. Quiet yet supremely confident, he believes he can reach the big leagues in two years. His journey is expected to begin at low Class A Charleston in April.
Minor League Top Prospects
The Devil Rays nearly promoted Upton from Double-A to the majors in mid-May, but decided at the last second that he needed some Triple-A seasoning at age 19. He arrived at Durham as the best prospect in the minors, and he burst upon the IL scene by hitting five homers in his first full week. Upton is unbelievably advanced at the plate for his age. His discipline and wiry strength give him 30-30 potential, and it will be a shock if he's not a productive hitter in the majors. His bat speed rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his speed and arm strength grade out even better. Upton wowed observers much more with his bat than his glove, however. He committed 25 errors in 66 games at shortstop, with his footwork and hands undermining his range and arm. The Devil Rays gave him a look at third base in September, and also tried him for a game in left field. "I think in some ways they should have let him finish the year playing short in Triple-A instead of changing him around up there, but he'll have an impact wherever he plays," a National League scout said. "He hits with power to all fields. Everyone compares him to Derek Jeter, but he's got more raw power than Jeter ever had at the same age."
Drafted with the second overall pick in 2002, Upton made his pro debut in April. He posted a .215 average in his first month, but wasn't overmatched and steadily improved. He batted .411 in July, earning a promotion to Double-A. "He's a can't-miss, barring injury," Beasley said. "My first instinct was I thought he was overmatched, then you see him a second, third and fourth series and he gets better and better. He would drive the ball into right center in one at-bat and then turn on 96 miles an hour in the next. "He has so many tools, you can't even name them." Upton shows five plus present tools, including above-average raw power and an advanced idea at the plate. His arm and speed grade out close to 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but he tends to get careless in the field. He topped the minors with a combined 56 errors, most of which were the result of showing off his arm strength, and he needs to improve his reads and positioning.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the International League in 2004
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the International League in 2004