Cubs Find Value In College Bat Austin Upshaw
In another draft where they loaded up on pitchers, hoping to find future pieces for the rotation, the Cubs may have discovered their next position player on a fast track to Wrigley Field.
Austin Upshaw lasted until the 13th round in 2017, but he quickly and quietly made an impression after signing. The 21-year-old Kennesaw State product hit two home runs in his first Rookie-level Arizona League game, skipped short-season Eugene entirely and became a middle-of-the-order hitter at low Class A South Bend.
"It's kind of like the rest of the college bats who we've always targeted," scouting director Matt Dorey said, referencing Upshaw's lefthanded swing and ability to control the strike zone. "We thought there was going to be some power in there down the road."
Upshaw is obviously still a long way from playing next to first-round college talents like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ. Ultimately, the 2017 draft class will be judged on top picks Brendon Little and Alex Lange and whether they develop into big league starters.
But Upshaw showed enough during his 52-game audition with South Bend, hitting .290/.339/.381 with two home runs, to be in position to begin 2018 at high Class A Myrtle Beach.
The decision to draft Upshaw blended multiple disciplines. The analytics department keyed in on his consistent college production, while area scout Keith Lockhart projected a power surge for the 6-foot, 175-pound batter and an ability to move from first base to third base or possibly even second base. He cycled through all three positions during his pro debut.
The Cubs hope that Upshaw will continue to refine his polished hitting approach and gain exposure around the diamond—perhaps picking up corner outfield—while developing an all-around skill set that would make him a good fit for the big league roster.
"You start looking at versatility," Dorey said. "This guy has a chance to wear a bunch of different gloves potentially. And he does a lot of things offensively that we like from this demographic.
"We're super pumped to have him."