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Keeping Up With the Uptons

One is lanky, the other stocky.

One is graceful, the other powerful.

But for B.J. and Justin Upton, 25 and 22, respectively, that’s about where the differences end.

And unlike the Gwynn brothers, the Maddux brothers, the Guerrero brothers and even the Martinez brothers, the Uptons both have superstar and even hall of fame potential. Justin is poised to be an MVP any year now, and B.J.’s play in center field is third only to Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Cameron. I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of his dazzling catches live and can’t imagine anyone being better than he.

Though both have been criticized for their lack of maturity at times, their raw talent is undeniable. They were both drafted for their 5-tool potential, which they have achieved at the major league level.

Let’s cut them a little slack, too. Don’t forget that they both made their major league debuts at just 19 years of age. And that’s just the start of their striking similarities.

Both Uptons were first-round draft picks, B.J. was the second overall pick by the Devil Rays in 2002, then Justin the first overall pick by Arizona in 2005. They are the only set of brothers in baseball history to both be selected so high. And they were both infielders–both shortstops–but they were a little too raw to succeed as professionals, so they were both converted to outfielders. Hardly a bad decision.

Both had tremendous hype, Jason Heyward like. Both were touted to lead in their respective team’s upcoming crop of players, which included other hyped names like Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) and Delmon Young (Rays), also first-rounders as well as brothers of major leaguers, albeit underachieving ones.

Most impressive of all, both B.J. and Justin Upton could have pursued professional football careers, but they both chose baseball. Their choosing America’s favorite pastime was no accident though, as their passion for baseball was as strong as their talent.

And it was a passion that started early. Their baseball careers have lasted as long as they’ve been alive. They’ve always been there for each other and have constantly encouraged each other to be the best that they can be. Even though they now drive Cadillacs and are financially set for life, they are hardly satisfied.

They’ve both had their breakout seasons, B.J. at 22 and Justin at 21. Though B.J. has struggled since, you can bet that the six-year, $51.25 million contract given to his younger brother as well as the comments of Justin having more upside will serve as his inspiration to bounce back.

Now, finally free from injury, B.J. is off to a great start for the 2010 season. One of my (not so) bold predictions was that he would be the first 30-30 player in Rays history.

And for which one is better? That’s only for time to decide. The sky is the limit for both of these guys, and watching them as they flourish in the majors will be nothing short of special.

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