What a long, weird road Upton has taken on his road to the majors.
Even stranger is the last 16 months or so for our beloved "Beej." Back then, he was still a base-ball chucking, beer-chugging and declining member of "The Three aMEgos" with a bat-chucking primadonna named Delmon and mobile sperm bank named Dukes.
Something happened between back then and Spring Training that changed Upton for the better. It turned him from a coddled prospect to a man on a mission to make a name for himself in the majors.
It is not yet known what sparked the major change in Melvin Emmanuel "Bossman Junior" Upton Jr.(his name according to his birth certificate), but there's theories on what may have caused it.
-The DUI may have been a wake-up call for him, telling him that he's not the celebrity that he thought he was and that he needs to clean up his image.
-USA Today unjustly grouping him together with Delmon and Dukes in a very scathing article about 3 young prospects who believed they deserved to be in the majors right now and how the Rays management didn't care about them or their future. What exactly did Upton say or do to deserve to be grouped with Dukes? He took a picture and said that he personally didn't know what he was doing wrong(back then) as a player to still remain in AAA.
-Friedman's call to Upton, asking him to move from his natural position to a new position. It was basically an easier way to tell him that he's just not cutting it as a SS and he'd get to majors quicker if he took a page out of his little brother's book and try out playing somewhere else.
-Claims made by various baseball websites, after baby brother Justin got drafted, that BJ was no longer the best athlete in the family anymore.
Who knows which, if any, of these were the cause of his quickened maturity. However, it seems that Upton is more relaxed with himself and his play on the field shows that.
In his prior 2 "cups of coffee", Upton seemed overmatched by major league pitching and his glimmer as a prospect was starting to fade(hitting in the low 200s with OBPs in the low 300s). However, that was 2 positions ago for Upton.
Upton started the season telling that he was willing to play anywhere just as long he made the team. As a result, he played games at 2B, 3B and in the OF in Spring Training. He won the starting 2B job as a result and never looked back.
Upton was playing so well at 2B that there was murmurs that he'd be a sure-thing as the Rays representative in the All-Star Game. His numbers as a 2B were about as good as anyone else's in the AL. In a game where the fans vote in the starting line-up, Upton was 4th in votes for AL 2B. However, the Upton=All-Star bandwagon fell short when Upton pulled up lame in a game and was out for about a month for the Rays.
Many Rays dreams came true when the Rays mgmt. decided that Upton would return as a CF. Many people believed that due to Upton's range/athleticism and Rocco's aptitude for injuries that he'd eventually supplant Rocco as the team's long-term CF.
Upton, right now, is hitting .339, with an OBP over .420 and a slugging percentage nearing 600. Many people believed early in the season that his numbers were generated by luck(his BABIP was reaching historical range) and his propensity for striking out would be his undoing. However, when he returned from his DL, he's had a near .700 OBP and he's garnered his first player of the week award this week (sharing it with Yankees 2B Robinson Cano).
I don't think Melvin Sr. ever thought that both his sons would be both on their ways to making big names for themselves in the big leagues and I very much doubt that he'd see them both being big names at anywhere other than SS. However, by year's end, there's a large likeliehood that both will be starting CFers in the Majors playing for the 2 most recent expansion teams in baseball.
I can't wait to see what happens with Upton in the next 12-16 months, but there's a large chance that Rays fans will enjoy it and finally have a 5-6 player core that finally fights for a playoffs spot.