Melvin Upton Jr. has plenty of gifts as a ball player, except for one that matters most of all…hustle. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

As you’ve all probably heard, Melvin Upton Jr. has been released by the Blue Jays, thus concluding his brief and less than memorable tenure with Toronto.

When it was announced last July that the Blue Jays had acquired Upton from the Padres, it seemed like a strange move as Toronto already had Ezequiel Carrera playing a respectable left-field.  Upon hearing that San Diego would be covering all but $5 million of the $22 million remaining on Upton’s sizeable contract, I figured what harm could come from adding a power hitting outfielder with plenty of speed and who was solid defensively.  It didn’t take long however to realize that Upton was not a great fit with the Blue Jays, as he struck out far too often (30% of the time), didn’t hustle, and did not impress one bit on defense.

Upton seems to have all the gifts to be an excellent ball player.  He can hit for power, run like the wind, and should be able to utilize that great speed to be an effective outfielder.  Unfortunately, he’s also lacking in several areas which leads to him not getting anywhere near the most out of those aforementioned talents.  What surprised me most about Upton was his lack of hustle.  For a player with his speed to not run out grounders was a shame.  Considering how fast he is, not once with the Blue Jays do I remember him running down a fly ball in the outfield that a much slower player wouldn’t have been able to run down.

To me, if a player doesn’t hustle, it doesn’t just say that they’re lazy, it’s also an indicator of why other parts of their game may be suffering.  So when I see Upton striking out 30% of the time, I then assume that maybe he’s not putting in the work on his hitting.  Or when I see him not making certain plays in the outfield that any respectable outfielder should make, I assume he hasn’t been practicing his defense like he should.  I hate making assumptions about Upton without fully knowing the facts and what’s really happening behind the scenes, but what I do know is that he’s a player who seriously lacks hustle/effort, and that approach took away from him being as effective as he could have been.

The Blue Jays are a winning ball club, with the sort of depth many teams could only dream of having.  Why use a precious roster spot on a player who doesn’t hustle when there are equally talented players willing to bust their ass for this ball club?  I honestly thought when it came to left field the Blue Jays would do the predictable thing and use a platoon of Carrera/Upton/Pearce.  To my surprise they didn’t end up doing this.  They thought outside the box and in the end did the right thing by releasing Upton.  That sort of decision says to me this organization is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to doing what’s best for this ball club…and when so little separates the competition in this league, do you really want to depend on a player who isn’t giving it their very best?

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