While the Atlanta Braves have put three players on the NL All-Star roster (Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel), there could have easily been a fourth player on the roster in Justin Upton. It’s easy to say that a player who has struck out 90-plus times shouldn’t be easily voted into the Mid-Summer Classic, but Upton has meant much more than that to the Braves in the first half of the 2014 season.
Everyone knows of the Braves’ struggles as an offense this season. However, there is no hiding that some of the best hitters on the team, Freeman included, have went through lengthy slumps or have yet to get really started (Jason Heyward). That is where Upton has been different for the most part — other than a small stretch in June where his batting average dropped down to .271, which is really close to his career average of .275.
Where he has been impressive is with his power. While he isn’t the league leader with his 17 home runs, he has led the Braves with those home runs, along with Evan Gattis, and has been able to keep the team in games with his bat. While he doesn’t possess the power of a guy like Giancarlo Stanton or the contact ability of a Jose Altuve, he is a bat in the lineup who has the potential to create instant offense with any attempt. Along with the fact that he is on pace to hit 34 home runs for the season, he’s also on pace to hit 34 doubles and drive in 100 runs on the year.
Just based on his first-half performance, Upton should at least be a reserve on the team — not placed on the list until the final vote. His power and occasional speed make him a player who can win a game for the NL All-Star team with one swing of the bat once some of the starters have taken a seat.