Five-time All-Star third baseman and World Series champion Matt Williams knows a thing or two about superstars in the making. “Matt the Bat” was among the upper echelon tier of players during his tenure in the majors with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Now serving as the D-backs third base coach, Williams has had the luxury of watching the rise and maturation of the team’s young star and franchise face, Justin Upton. The two-time All-Star right fielder finished fourth in the National League MVP race last year and hit a career-high .289 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI.
Williams told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Thursday that he believes Upton could be on the verge of superstardom.
“I think first and foremost, it’s within himself,” Williams said. “He’s taken the initial step where he is mentioned in the MVP balloting. He’s mentioned in that vote. Now he’s got to take it to the next step, but I think he does that internally.”
Upton’s exceptional talent, intensity and passion for the game have been lauded. But his ability to contain his emotions and taper the lofty expectations that come with being the D-backs’ big bopper remains one of the 24-year-old’s biggest challenges.
“I think he expects himself to get better on a year-by-year basis so he’s going to carry this club,” Williams explained. “He’s going to be the anchor of the club. In his own brain, he has to make sure his expectations are within reason and that he brings it every single day.”
The Diamondbacks expect a lot out of their emerging star both on the field and in the clubhouse. Williams has no doubt that Upton will be ready when the bell rings.
“He’s going to hit third every day, he’s going to play right field as many days as [Manager Kirk Gibson] will allow him,” Williams stated. “I know he’ll want to play every single day and he’s going to go out there and play.”
The key for Upton going forward is to not let his emotions affect the team atmosphere when he’s not playing well.
“He’s been able to mature as a player and certainly know that any of the other stuff doesn’t help himself or help his club,” Williams said.
After amassing 91 career home runs, 296 RBI and a .277 average since he debuted in the league in 2007, it’s clear that Upton is on the brink of something truly special. While it hasn’t been an easy road, Williams believes Upton is close to reaching his prime.
“I think he’s at that point where he’s ready to take that step and let the game come to him a little bit instead of chasing it,” Williams stated.