Justin Upton finally joined the South Bend Silverhawks this weekend after having missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury. A large blister on his left hand has not prevented him from starting the first three games of the homestand. Thus far, Upton is hitting .250 with four strikeouts and an RBI in twelve at bats. But not everyone is focused merely on his results.
"I know he can hit, and I know there's a lot of things in place already," said Silverhawks Hitting Coach Todd Dunwoody when asked about what he would be working on with Upton. "So it's just a matter of getting him acclimated to what pro ball is all about, the work ethic, and what needs to get done and accomplished."
Obviously, Upton is going to play under a microscope, being the number one pick in last year's draft and garnering a minor league-record $6.1 million signing bonus. Yet there's certainly no reason to fret about a somewhat mediocre start to his professional career.
After all, this is a guy who batted .519 in his senior year at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. There Upton clubbed 11 homers and drove in 32 runs in just 54 official plate appearances. He's also the guy who hit .500 for the Diamondbacks in spring training, driving in six runs in only 14 spring at bats.
Not only does Upton currently have a sizable hand blister to deal with, but being two weeks behind the rest of the Midwest League in terms of preparation can't help his initial numbers any. In fact, Upton hadn't taken any swings for two days prior to Friday's cage session just hours before his debut. Understandably, Dunwoody isn't worried.
"I know he can swing the bat from the right side. He can hit, there's no question about it."
What is in question, however, is how Upton will handle the spotlight. Not only are fans and media all over him, but opposing pitchers are gunning for him as well. The 18-year old Upton will be seeing the very best pitches from professional hurlers who are vastly more experienced than the kids he dominated in Virginia. He's going to get pitched to like nobody else in the Midwest League. Everybody will put a little extra on a fastball to Upton, and he's going to see a lot more out pitches than setup pitches.
Dunwoody will reserve judgment until he sees a few more at bats.
"I don't know how pitchable he is as far as offspeed and stuff like that, so it remains to be seen. It'll be fun."
That much, we know for sure.
Read more from Keith Glab at www.baseballevolution.com