PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 13: Justin Upton #8 and his brother BJ Upton #2 of the Atlanta Braves wait for their turn in the batting cage during pregame against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 13, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. The braves begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
The Dodgers start a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves on Friday for their third-straight series against an National League East opponent.
The Braves currently sit atop the East and are hoping that their talented core of young outfielders can extend their half game divisional lead.
The 2012 off-season was a busy one in Atlanta, as the Braves added the duo of sibling outfielders, BJ and Justin Upton. On their way through the minors, the Uptons were some of the most highly touted outfield prospects of their respective draft classes.
BJ was drafted in 2002 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the second pick of the draft. He was a free agent for the first time in 2012; he declined an offer from Tampa Bay and signed a five-year, $75.25 million deal with Atlanta.
For BJ, 2012 was a considerable off year statistically, leading many to doubt if he was worth the contract offered by the Braves. He sacrificed his on-base percentage for power, reaching career highs in slugging and home runs, but walking 26 less times than in 2011.
So far, with the Braves, the older Upton has not impressed. In 36 games he has a .145 batting average, the lowest among Atlanta’s starters. On the plus side, at least his walk rate has returned to his career norm.
After coming to Atlanta, it only took two months until the Braves traded for BJ’s brother, Justin. It was one of the biggest trades of the off-season with Arizona and Atlanta swapping seven different players.
Justin was drafted first-overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005. He was part of Arizona’s young clubs that always seemed to make late surges and surprise the other clubs in the NL West with their raw talent.
In 2011, Justin had a career year as the Diamondbacks easily took the NL West by eight games.
He was an MVP candidate, finishing fourth in voting. But in 2012, Justin and manager Kirk Gibson seemed to be at odds, with Gibson questioning the outfielder’s grit and motivation. This has been cited by many as the reason Arizona was willing to part ways with their talented outfielder.
Justin Upton is leading the Braves in almost every offensive statistic in 2013 and is the core of the team’s young outfield.
This three-game series is important for the Dodgers in order to maintain their current momentum and get out of last place in the NL West. But if Atlanta’s talented, young outfield is on their game, it will be prove to be a very competitive series.