Arizona traded its star right fielder to the Braves on Thursday in a seven-player deal that sent former All-Star infielder Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks.
For the first time since he was a high school freshman, Upton will have older brother B.J. Upton as a teammate.
The brothers combine with Jason Heyward, who won a Gold Glove in 2012, in an outfield potentially packed with power and speed.
“If we push ourselves to the next level, I feel with the extra push from each other there’s no question we can be the best outfield in baseball,” Justin Upton said in a telephone interview. “I’m not going to give us that label until we prove it.”
The Braves, who also get third baseman Chris Johnson, are giving up one of their top pitching prospects, Randall Delgado, and three minor leaguers in the deal.
They are right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury.
Justin Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, has played five full major league seasons. Last season, he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI and a career-high 107 runs.
In 2011, while helping Arizona win the NL West, Upton hit .289 with career-best totals of 31 home runs and 88 RBI and finished fourth in NL MVP voting. He’s a career .278 hitter with 108 home runs and 80 stolen bases.
Upton said he hopes to become a more consistent player in Atlanta.
“I’ve had a couple good years where I put up good numbers and my goal all along has been to put those years up consistently,” he said. “I think now I’m in a position with Atlanta … we can really feed off each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to that consistent production rate.”
Delgado, a 23-year-old right-hander, had been expected to challenge for a spot in the Braves rotation. His acquisition bolsters the young pitching depth in Arizona depleted by the trade of Trevor Bauer. Delgado was 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 appearances, 17 as a starter, for the Braves. Rated Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect by Baseball America the past two years, he was 4-3 with a 4.06 ERA with Triple-A Gwinnett last season.
The trade leaves Arizona with three veteran outfielders – Cody Ross, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra – along with two youngsters the team feels are ready for the majors – Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. Towers projects Eaton as a center fielder and a prototypical leadoff hitter.
Towers said the addition of Ross and a top contact hitter in Prado changes the character of the club.
“I would say we’re going to be a little different club,” he said. “I think we can still hit home runs, but I think the last couple of years we’ve relied too much on the long ball. If you look at our record, those days that we didn’t homer, we usually didn’t win.”