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ESPN: Justin Upton primed for bounce-back season

The Arizona Diamondbacks did not trade Justin Upton.

At least not yet, anyway.

The 25-year-old who hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI for the disappointing D-backs last season is currently penciled into his customary spot in right field, and barring any surprises, will begin his sixth full season with the team in just a few months.

But what can Arizona expect from a player who has alternated good and bad seasons over the course of his career? Will Upton be the MVP candidate he was in 2011 when he hit .289 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI, or will he be the guy he was last season?

For what it’s worth, an ESPN Insider article titled “Youngsters who will bounce back” listed the former No. 1 overall pick first.

Factoring in Upton’s career trajectory and the fact that expectations may have been a bit high for him last year, the piece notes things could be worse for the player and his team.

When you hit .280/.355/.430 in your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season, chances are you still have a lot going for you. Upton’s very nearly been written off, but he remains a young player, with some history of pretty good success, signed for three years and $38.5 million, a reasonable deal when you consider the final two years buy out what would be free agency.

ZiPS pegs Upton to recover to a 24-homer, 3.4 WAR year in 2013 and that’s not a projection I can quibble with. He’s still young enough to have upside to significantly beat that projection. Even if 2011 remains his only superstar year, I’d rather have an underperforming star than an overperforming scrub.

The “ZiPS” projection system was developed by Dan Szymbrorski, who is the writer of the ESPN piece, and takes into account plenty of data to determine how a player will do.

And if it’s right, the Diamondbacks will be happy they kept Upton around.

Provided, of course, they do.