Atlanta's New Outfield: Young, Fast and Powerful
The Atlanta Braves ended baseball's longest-running soap opera, "As The Upton Turns," by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal. Justin now joins brother B.J., who inked a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this winter, and Jason Heyward in Atlanta's new-look outfield. The Brothers Upton and Heyward all have youth on their side, and they can crack a game wide open with power or speed. How rare is it for a club to have three power-speed threats covering the outfield, let alone three young ones? Turns out, it's unprecedented.
All three of Atlanta's fly-catchers have turned in 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons in the major leagues. B.J. hit the 20/20 mark in 2007 (24 HR, 22 SB), 2011 (23 HR, 36 SB) and 2012 (28 HR, 31 SB). Justin did it in 2009 (26 HR, 20 SB) and 2011 (31 HR, 21 SB), and Heyward cleared the bar this past year (27 HR, 21 SB in 2012). With the Uptons and Heyward in the prime years of their careers, manager Fredi Gonzalez might just get three 20/20 seasons from his outfielders in 2013:
2013 Bill James Projections
While Heyward has more than 1,700 plate appearances in the majors and he can grow a beard between innings, he'll be just 23 years old next season. Justin is entering his age-25 campaign, and B.J. is the old man at all of 28. All young dudes, all 20/20 threats in 2013 and for years to come. So, when was the last time that a team boasted three 20/20 outfielders?
The answer, according to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, is "never." In all the years since we began this stick-and-ball business, no team has ever had its left, center and right fielders all go 20/20 in the same season. The Uptons and Heyward could very well make history next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. If Justin re-signs with the Braves following the 2015 season, B.J. keeps his wheels and Heyward stays healthy, they could be at this for a half-decade.
It's incredibly cool -- and rare -- for two brothers to man the same outfield. But if B.J., Justin and Heyward all hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases next year, the story of the Uptons' shared bloodlines will be downright blasé by comparison.
Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here's a list of teammates who have gone 20/20 in the same season while in their twenties. Only nine pairs have pulled off the trick, with Justin Upton and Chris Young being the most recent in 2011:
20/20 seasons by teammates under 30 years old