FIRST SCOUTED bymajor league clubs at age 13, in the bigs by 19 and a .357 postseason hitter at20, Upton is a young man in a hurry. "He was a 14-year-old kid at the AreaCode Games," recalls Nationals assistant general manager Mike Rizzo,referring to the summer showcase for the nation's top high school players,generally seniors, "and he stood out."
Speed and powerdefine Upton's game. Watching him run out a triple is as exciting as seeingDevin Hester return a kickoff, and he strikes the ball with terrifying force.After he whacked a low screamer over the centerfield fence against the Royalsthis spring, Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin swore that he had seen the secondbaseman leap for it. Given his rare combination of skills, his status as theNo. 1 draft pick in 2005 and his arrival in the big leagues as a teenager lastseason, it's not surprising that Upton has inspired comparisons with a youngKen Griffey Jr., who at 20 batted .300 and was an All-Star. Neither of thosethresholds are out of reach for the 6' 3", 205-pound Arizona rightfielderthis season.
Indeed, Upton,the younger brother of Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton, could very well joinGriffey and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in the past 30 years to hit 20homers at age 20. His speed also makes him an excellent candidate to becomeonly the second 20-home-run, 20-stolen-base, 20-year-old player in major leaguehistory. (Vada Pinson pulled off that feat for the 1959 Reds.) Fast company fora kid who has played just 43 games in the bigs.
Photograph by PETER READ MILLER