D-Backs agree with top pick Upton

D-Backs agree with top pick Upton

PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks have reached an agreement with Justin Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, the club confirmed on Friday.

According to a source, Upton will receive a package worth $6.1 million, the largest ever for a drafted player who signed a Minor League contract. Upton's signing was first reported by USA Today.

Though a determination will not be made until after Spring Training, Upton figures to start the season with South Bend, the lower level of Arizona's two Class A affiliates.

Despite having selected shortstop Stephen Drew with their first pick the year before, the Diamondbacks chose Upton, 17, then a senior at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Va., over a trio of college pitchers -- Mike Pelfrey, Luke Hochevar and Craig Hansen -- because they felt he was the best player available.

"We feel Justin is a potential impact player in the Major Leagues in the future," Arizona VP of scouting Mike Rizzo said last summer. "He was the top guy on our board. The college pitching was something that had some allure to us, but it was just too tough to pass up this player."

Among high schoolers, Baseball America ranked Upton as the best athlete, best five-tool player, best pure hitter, fastest baserunner, best defensive player and closest to the Majors. He received the publication's High School Player of the Year Award at the Winter Meetings in December.

"I've just seen this kid play so many times," Rizzo said previously. "I've got so much background on him and he's excelled at every level he's been at. He's exceeded all age groups and timeframes and everything else and he was the guy I really focused in on."

Baseball talent runs in the Upton family as his brother, B.J., also a shortstop, was selected by the Devil Rays with the second overall pick in the 2003 draft and is with their Triple-A Durham affiliate.

The Diamondbacks did not expect to have a problem signing Upton, but as negotiations began it quickly became apparent that the two sides were far apart.

Upton had originally planned to attend classes at Louisburg (N.C.) college last fall, but he elected not to on Aug. 30, which kept the negotiations alive. Once he had attended a class, the D-Backs would not have been able to negotiate with him until a week before the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

The Diamondbacks are no stranger to negotiating with draft picks, as they did not ink Drew until just minutes before a May 30 deadline last year.

A right-handed hitter, Upton has shown good patience at the plate and has outstanding bat speed. He's able to drive the ball to all fields and has good plate coverage and extension.

Once on base, Upton is a threat to steal. He ran a 6.23 in a 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game Showcase, at the time the fastest ever recorded there. Florida native Derrick Robinson ran a 6.19 this past June.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.