Tuesday, Atlanta Braves outfielders B.J. and Justin Upton made major headlines by becoming the first brothers to hit back-to-back home runs in a single game since Paul and Lloyd Waner in 1938 (per MLB.com).
A terrific feat in its own right, but beneath this exciting headline looms an even larger development: Baseball fans may very well be watching Justin Upton finally reach superstar status.
It is difficult to imagine Upton is still just 25 years old, as it seems like this six-year MLB player has been around for quite a while.
Drafted with the first overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005, Upton has surely experienced his fair share of ups and downs as a professional ballplayer.
After experiencing a relatively quiet first two years in the major leagues, Upton burst onto the scene in 2009 with Arizona.
That season, the 6’2”, 205-pound outfielder batted .300 (158-for-526) with 26 home runs and 86 RBI. Upton also thwacked 30 doubles, seven triples and stole 20 bases.
This was en route to Upton’s first All-Star Game appearance.
Unfortunately, Upton retreated in 2010. Battling injury, Upton hit .273 with 17 homers and 69 RBI in 133 games. While Upton did have 27 doubles, he struck out a career-high 152 times.
Upton bounced back hard in 2011. In 150 games, the Norfolk, Va., native garnered career highs in hits (171), home runs (31), doubles (39) and RBI (88). According to Baseball-Reference.com, Upton also led the league in HBP (19).
Having earned his second All-Star appearance, as well as his first Silver Slugger Award, many fans and pundits believed Upton was on the fast track to joining the ranks of MLB superstars.
But with anticipation high for the 2012 campaign, Upton once again struggled to live up to expectations. It did not help Upton had a thumb injury that partially stripped him of his power. It also did not help Upton that he seemed to be the source of constant trade rumors. Upton’s open spat with Diamondback fans did not help the young man’s cause very much either.
The result was a disappointing season where Upton batted .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI. His .430 slugging percentage was his lowest since his rookie year in 2007.
Now 2013, Upton has turned over a new leaf. He is a proud member of the Atlanta Braves. Even better, Upton has the rare luxury of having a trusted confidant in B.J. to vent to in trying times.
Consequently, Upton looks more comfortable during each at-bat than ever before in his MLB career.
While true the season is still young, Upton’s sense of ease at the plate is on full display. In 20 games, Upton is batting .307 with 11 home runs and 16 RBI. His OBP/SLG/OPS is .391/.813/1.204.
A small sample indeed, but nonetheless impressive. Upton is a hard-working player who is on a rabid pace to have a bust-out 2013 campaign (barring major injury).
With a great Braves fanbase and his brother at his side, Upton has the opportunity to finally become the superstar nearly everyone envisioned him to be.
If Upton does, it will not only be good for the Atlanta Braves, but it will also be good for the game of baseball.
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