Days after they signed holdout Stephen Drew, their top pick from 2004’s Amateur Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks have settled on SS Justin Upton as the no. 1 overall pick from 2005’s crop writes The East Valley Tribune’s Jack Macgruder.
One respected major league scouting director has called high school shortstop Justin Upton the best position player to enter the major league draft since Gary Sheffield.
When Diamondbacks assistant general manager Bob Gebhard went to scout Upton this spring, Upton had a single to left field, a home
run to left and a home run to right in consecutive at-bats.
With that as a backdrop, it is no wonder the Diamondbacks will use the first overall pick to select Upton in the free agent draft Tuesday, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
The D-Backs would not confirm that Upton will be their choice, although they earlier identified Upton and college pitchers Luke Hochevar of Tennessee, Mike Pelfrey of Wichita State and Craig Hansen of St. John’s as the four candidates for the No.1 pick.
Even the Monday signing of shortstop Stephen Drew, their No.1 choice in the 2004 draft, will keep the D-Backs from taking another shortstop, the source said, especially since many scouts project Upton – 6-foot-2, 205 pounds – as an outfielder as he continues to mature.
Upton’s brother, B.J. Upton, also a shortstop, was the second player taken in the 2001 draft by Tampa Bay and is playing at Triple-A Durham this season after getting a taste of the major leagues last year.
Sheffield was the sixth overall pick in the 1986 draft – Matt Williams was the third – as a shortstop out of Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough High, but he has moved to third base and then the outfield as his career progressed.
Upton, 17 (above), who attends Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va., was hitting .519 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 54 at-bats through May 23. He also had five doubles, three triples and seven stolen bases.
He has been timed at 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash, a mark that compares with the fastest prospects.
B.J. Upton (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) signed a five-year contract worth $4.6 million in 2001, but the market may not be quite as high this time.
San Diego took high school shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick last season and paid him $3.15 million.
Even after signing Drew, the D-Backs have five picks in the top 83 after receiving compensatory picks for the loss of free agent Richie Sexson last winter.
Upton is represented by agent Larry Reynolds, the brother of former major leaguer and current ESPN analyst Harold Reynolds.