Justin Upton arrived in the big leagues at the tender age of 19. Two years later, the right-handed swinging Upton cracked 26 homers with 86 runs batted in for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The next nine seasons have been equally productive for Upton, who has played for four other major league teams including his current employer, the Angels.
Upton was traded by the Detroit Tigers in 2017, and is a four-time All-Star who is second on the Angels with 11 homers and has driven in a club-best 34 runs.
The Angels (26-21) snapped their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays last Sunday behind two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, who allowed six hits with two runs, one walk with nine strikeouts over seven and two-third innings.
On the mound, Ohtani is 4-1 with a solid 3.35 earned-run average and should reach double figures in wins.
Upton, who is batting .250 with a .467 slugging percentage and a .312 on-base percentage, went hitless in four at-bats on Sunday.
In Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Rays, Upton again went without a base hit in four at-bats.
On Friday, Tampa Bay prevailed 8-3 as Upton, who has claimed three Silver Slugger awards, didn’t play after getting hit in the hand during Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander.
Upton, a left-fielder with a strong throwing arm, bats in the No. 3 hole and offers speed on the base paths with a swift and highly-productive bat that drives the baseball to all fields.
Upton, highly sought after coming out of high school in Virginia, was the No. 1 pick by Arizona in 2005 and has swatted 30 or more homers three times with a best of 35 in 2017 and has driven in 100 runs or better twice, including a high of 109 last season.
The Angels have improved from 2017 when they went 80-82, but the team finds itself in a tough division that includes the defending World Series champ Astros.
Still they are equipped, at least offensively, to stay with Houston (30-18) in the American League West.
Beside Upton, some of the Angels’ top players include Mike Trout in center field, who has hit a team-leading 14 home runs with 28 RBIs and is batting .294.
Albert Pujols plays first base/designated hitter and has six home runs with 21 RBIs and a .247 batting average.
Ohtani owns a .321 batting average and has six homers with 17 RBIs, while free agent Zack Cozart, who signed in the off-season, has five homers with 17 RBIs and a .227 batting average, toils at third base.
Andrelton Simmons, who is hitting a team-best .329 with three homers and 25 RBIs, is the shortstop.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.