Who Could Have a 20/20 Season in 2016?

A coveted milestone that many hitters will strive for during the season is the 20/20 mark. Hitting 20 home runs while stealing as many bases marks an excellent all-around ability, showcasing a power bat and speed. It’s rare to find those two qualities in a hitter and with the currently depressed offensive environment, it isn’t surprising the 20/20 mark has been increasingly hard to reach.

A mere four hitters had both 20 stolen bases and 20 home runs in 2015—Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, A.J. Pollock, and Ryan Braun. The vaunted 20/20 club could look quite different this season, though. Pollock is out for much of the season with a fractured elbow, and some believe Goldschmidt won’t be able to reach the 20-steal plateau this season. Machado’s previous stolen base high in either the minor leagues or major leagues was just 13, and Braun is an injury risk. Three of the four could repeat, but it wouldn’t shock many if the club was composed of completely different faces by the end of this season. Here are the most likely candidates to make the jump.

Mike Trout

Well, you knew this one was coming. Many imagined that Trout would have a permanent place in the 20/20 club after his first two explosive seasons, but a trend towards more power and less speed has kept him under 20 steals for the past two seasons. Trout should have no trouble hitting 20 home runs (after all, he hit 41 last season), so it really comes down to the steals. The 24-year old stole just 11 last year and 16 the year before, but it’s unlikely that the player who stole 49 in his rookie year in 2012 has lost all that speed. Trout reached a maximum speed of 20.8 mph, not far from Dee Gordon’s top speed of 21.1 mph. In this case, it’s more about whether Trout and the Angels want to run or not—the team may want to preserve his legs instead.

Andrew McCutchen

Another obvious pick for this list, McCutchen has seen his steals decline some over the past two seasons. McCutchen had five straight 20/20 seasons, but recorded just 18 steals in 2014 and 11 last season. There’s still hope for the 29-year-old, though. 2015’s low stolen base total may have been the result of a lingering early-season knee injury. As a result, he didn’t steal a base in April. Home runs could also be the issue, as McCutchen is usually just a handful of home runs above 20. That said, it’s been six seasons since he last dipped below 20.

Todd Frazier

Frazier, like Trout, faces a greater challenge in the stolen bases category than in the power department. The 30-year old swatted 35 home runs in 2015, but only stole 13 bags. He did reach 20 in 2014, though, so the speed is likely there. Frazier has a few factors working against him, most notably his eight failed attempts last season and trade to the White Sox from the Reds. The Reds are a running team—they had the most stolen bases in the MLB last season—while the White Sox had one of the lowest stolen base totals in 2015. Although Frazier is one of the longer shots on this list, the speed is very likely there if the White Sox want to risk him getting thrown out more than most would like.

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo had one of the most surprising speed breakouts last season, swiping 17 after combining for just 16 in his previous four major league seasons. Rizzo won’t struggle to hit 20 home runs, but the stolen bases will be harder to reach. The 240-pound first baseman had a higher success rate than Frazier, but his lack of a track record lowers expectations quite a bit. If Joe Maddon wants Rizzo to run there’s a decent chance he reaches the mark, though the Cubs may rather keep Rizzo grounded while allowing other players to wreak havoc on the basepaths.

Brian Dozier

Dozier’s a more traditional pick—a second baseman with twenty steals in the past. Dozier was a 20/20 club member in 2014, but his 12 steals held him up last year. He’ll face challenges due to a low on-base percentage and consistent second-half struggles (Dozier has 39 career stolen bases and 48 home runs prior to the All-Star Break, but just 17 and 27 after). That said, the Twins don’t have much speed following Byron Buxton, especially with the departure of Aaron Hicks. It will, of course, be a challenge for Dozier to reach the milestone, but he has a better chance than many other names on this list.

Justin Upton

Many thought that Upton’s speed was all but gone after two straight seasons of eight steals, but he turned around and stole 19 in 2015. This change of course may have been a result of switching organizations (he averaged 19 as a Diamondback but just eight as a Brave), with the Padres giving him the green light on the basepaths. Either way, he’s now on a new team: the Tigers. Detroit was a middling team when it came to steals last season, but led the league in caught stealing. That’s far from good news for Upton, though he was only thrown out five times in 2015.  We know that the speed is still there, and the power will certainly be enough as well. Upton was just one stolen base away in 2015, and could join the club this year if the Tigers allow him to run.

Jason Heyward

Heyward, a former top prospect, was a 20/20 club member in his rookie season. There was hope that he would be the next player to reach the vaunted 30/30 mark, but Heyward hasn’t been able to live up to his first season in the big leagues. The 26-year-old has since seen his home runs drop and stolen bases stabilize around the 20 mark, though the talent remains. Many hope that Heyward can incorporate some more loft into his swing this season in Chicago and finally see a power breakout.

Dexter Fowler

Fowler experienced a power outbreak with the Cubs last season, hitting 17 home runs. He sacrificed some average for power, but the new power and 20 stolen bases made for an impressive season. He’s far from a sure bet to reach 20 steals or home runs in the future, but there’s also a chance he gets past 20 in both categories next year.

Kris Bryant

Yet another Cub, Bryant swiped 13 bases in his breakout rookie season last year. His speed came as a surprise to some, but Bryant is a great athlete that also stole 15 bases in 2014. He’s also an excellent base runner and was caught just four times last season. Most scouts gave Bryant only average speed while he was a prospect, but his baserunning acumen could allow for more steals than one would expect.

Ian Desmond

Prior to 2015, Desmond had recorded three straight 20/20 seasons. He fell apart last year, though, and fell short in both home runs (by one) and steals (by seven). Despite the disaster that was 2015, the talent is still there for Desmond to begin a new 20/20 streak in Texas. In addition, his 12 home runs and eight steals in the second half inspire hope of him reaching the landmark next season.

Brett Gardner

Gardner has never reached 20 home runs, though he was well on his way to doing so (along with enough stolen bases) in the first half of last season. Unfortunately, a wrist injury and disaster of a second half derailed those hopes. Gardner may end up dipping below 20 stolen bases as he ages, and will struggle to ever reach 20 home runs as well. The 2016 season is probably his last chance at getting there, but it will take a healthy season and increased power output to get there.

Charlie Blackmon

Blackmon has broken out in spectacular fashion in the past two seasons, becoming a stud at the plate. He has just enough pop to get to 20 homes runs after reaching 19 and 17 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Interestingly, Blackmon’s power output isn’t just a result of Coors Field–he actually hit more home runs on the road last season. Stolen bases won’t be a problem for the speedster, as his 43 steals last season show, so 2016 will be all about the power.

Mookie Betts

A former 5th round pick, Betts has flown through the minor leagues over the past couple of seasons and is now one of the best young players in baseball. Betts hit 18 home runs and had 21 stolen bases in his first full season last year, and there’s room for overall growth. Betts stole 40 bags in the minors in 2014, so more steals are possible. The biggest hurdle for the 5’9” outfielder will be home runs, as he hasn’t passed 17 home runs in the minor leagues.

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