And Justin before all: Upton goes No. 1
D-Backs take highly touted high schooler with top pick
PHOENIX -- In the end, talent won out over need as the Diamondbacks selected high school shortstop Justin Upton with the first overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
"It's a great feeling," Upton said. "It's an honor. I'm just glad to be part of the club and hopefully I can make an impact on the organization."
The Diamondbacks chose Upton, 17, a senior at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Va., over a trio of college pitchers --- Mike Pelfrey, Luke Hochevar and Craig Hansen -- because they felt he was the best player available.
"We feel Justin is a potential impact player in the Major Leagues in the future," Arizona scouting director Mike Rizzo said. "He was the top guy on our board. The college pitching was something that had some allure to us, but it was just too tough to pass up this player."
Among high schoolers, Baseball America ranked Upton as the best athlete, best five-tool player, best pure hitter, fastest baserunner, best defensive player and closest to the Majors. Baseball talent runs in the Upton family as his brother, B.J., also a shortstop, was selected by the Devil Rays with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft and is with their Triple-A Durham affiliate.
With Durham in Norfolk, Va., for a game, B.J. was able to be with his brother when his name was called by the Diamondbacks. The pair gathered Tuesday with friends and family in the Great Bridge High School library. Justin had worked out for the Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark on Sunday and his advisor, Larry Reynolds, had discussions with the Arizona front office, but until he heard his name on MLB Radio, he didn't know if he would be the first overall pick.
"I was hoping so," Upton said of going first. "I didn't know up until today. They played the game just like any other team would have. I didn't have any kind of impression. I was just hoping that I would get a chance to play and the Diamondbacks chose me."
The Diamondbacks had been leaning towards Upton for some time, but did not come to an absolute decision until Monday night.
"I've just seen this kid play so many times," Rizzo said. "I've got so much background on him and he's excelled at every level he's been at. He's exceeded all age groups and timeframes and everything else, and he was the guy I really focused in on. I've always personally leaned towards Justin going as far back as when we, I guess you would say, 'clinched,' the first pick in the draft last year."
With last week's signing of Florida State University shortstop Stephen Drew, the club's top pick in last year's draft, and the presence of 2002 first-round pick Sergio Santos, also a shortstop, at Triple-A Tucson, the Diamondbacks are now loaded at one of the game's premium positions.
Scouts have speculated that Drew or Upton could benefit from a shift to the outfield, but the Diamondbacks see both players as shortstops and they will sort out the position as the players develop. An organizational need was pitching, so the club strongly considered the college pitchers before finally reaching their decision.
Great Bridge High School
Position: SS B/T: R/R
H: 6'1" W: 195
Born: 1987-08-25 Class: HS
Lean, athletic build on large frame. Similar to Edgar Renteria. Quiet hitting approach w/ outstanding bat speed. Can drive balls to all fields. Good plate coverage and extension. No major mechanical flaws. Future five-tool player.
It's similar to last season when they went into the draft wanting pitching, but took Drew and outfielder Jon Zeringue because they felt the players were simply too talented to pass up in the first two rounds.
Upton has a very strong arm and is a good defender, but like his brother, he sometimes struggles with the accuracy of his throws. He's played third for his high school team and center field at some All-Star classics.
"I've played shortstop my whole life," Upton said. "I'd like to be a Major League shortstop, but it's up to the organization how fast I move. I'm going to go and hopefully get my chance at shortstop, and I'm going to play my heart out and however it ends up, it ends up."
A right-handed hitter, Upton has shown good patience at the plate and has outstanding bat speed. He's able to drive the ball to all fields and has good plate coverage and extension.
Once on base, Upton is a threat to steal. He ran a 6.23 in a 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game Showcase, the fastest time ever recorded there.
B.J. Upton, 20, moved quickly through Tampa Bay's farm system, and reached the big leagues last year, where he hit .258 with four home runs in 45 games. Needing more seasoning, he began this year with Durham. Despite being picked ahead of his brother, Justin isn't going to do any bragging just yet.
"He's helped me deal with some of the pressures during the season," Justin said. "He's just been there throughout the entire thing. He's been to the big leagues. Once I get to the big leagues I'll brag to him."
This is the first time the Diamondbacks have ever had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Their highest previous pick was the fourth overall pick in 1999 and they used that on high school shortstop Corey Myers, who is now a utility player at Triple-A.
Upton becomes the fifth shortstop ever taken with the No. 1 overall pick, joining Matt Bush (Padres '04), Alex Rodriguez (Mariners '93), Chipper Jones (Braves '90) and Shawon Dunston (Cubs '82).
Bush received a $3.15 million bonus from the Padres last year, but not a Major League contract. The D-Backs do not plan on offering Upton a Major League deal.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.