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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Magic and Myth of 27

Kyle Drenon

We've all heard about this age 27 thing.  It's part of fantasy articles, broadcasts and blogs every year.  While some might cling to the proverb that 27 is the magic number for young players to figure it out, others are much more skeptical.  ESPN's Tristan Cockroft did his bit on debunking the myth.  The guys at Baseball Prospectus aren't sold on the theory either.  It doesn't seem logical to assume that most guys have an internal clock with an arbitrary alarm set for their 27th birthday.

Maybe a sportswriter rolled dice and got lucky with the numbers 2 & 7.  Maybe a sabremetrician was partial to icosakhaiheptagons in Advanced Geometry.

Or maybe it's a blurry deadline conjured by front office shot callers to signify when a top prospects need to have it figured out.  Front Offices can't wait forever for the kids to grow up.  A typical rookie contract keeps guys under team control for 6 years and they are usually tweaked to buy teams more time.  The average age for MLB debuts is around 24, which gives 18-22 year-old players a pretty short window to prove they are worth a big money extension.

The truth is, nobody knows when a prospect will "get it". We might as well start shaking a magic 8-Ball when it comes to this octet.

This year, a lot of the names on The Scouting Book's list of 27-year-olds do look familiar.  Skip past the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Billy Butler, Evan Longoria and Adam Jones.  Even a littler further past names like Delmon Young, Ian Desmond, Mark Trumbo and Asdrubal Cabrera.  That's where the names still sound familiar, but not for on-field production.

This year, there are a handful of former top draft picks and prospects reaching the promised land of 27.  For some of them, this year has to be the year they break out, or they might be looking for a job with the stigma of a "former prospect."  Here's a team full of guys who need the myth to be busted.


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Unfortunately for Arencibia, that includes his minor league numbers (.302 32 HR 85 RBI for the AAA Las Vegas 51s).  J.P.'s opportunity appears to be upon him  with fellow top prospect Travis d'Arnaud out of the picture and Jeff Mathis down for the foreseeable future.  But, he needs to figure it out offensively or the former 51s backstop could find himself making a sad trip back to Sin City.

8-Ball Answer: Ask again Later
In 102 games last year, he took a first-row-parking-spot-worthy 18 walks.  His miserable .275 OBP made him barely playable despite his enormous power potential (41 HR over the past 2 years).  If the former first rounder can leave it on the shoulder a few more times, he might be able to carve out a niche and break the motto of America's playground.


Wallace was the big name in the Matt Holliday trade...and the Michael Taylor trade...and the Anthony Gose trade.  His prized prospect status has worn off after breaking camp with the Astros in 2010 and slopping together two ineffective campaigns.

8-Ball Answer: Doubtful

There's a lot that needs to click for Wallace in 2012 and beyond.  His defense is atrocious, his power hasn't transitioned and he's built kind of like Jack Black.  All those red flags go away if he hits.  A jump from his career AVG of .250 to a more palatable .275 or so could extend his leash a little longer.

The 8th pick in the 2008 draft, Beckham quickly burst onto the scene the following year.  He posted a 270/347/460 slash with 14 dingers.  The White Sox rushed him through 259 minor league at bats and he made them look smart, as Beckham finished 5th in ROY voting.

Since then, he's forgotten how to hit. His AVG has annually settled in at the .230 mark, thanks to a BABIP nosedive (.254 in 2012, down from his .287 career AVG).  His minor league pit stop may not have been so brilliant after all.

8-Ball Answer:Reply hazy, try again

The hope for Beckham is harbored in his ability to put the ball in play, which he did 73% of the time and his increasing power residuals (he improved his AB/HR from 49.9 to 32.8).

Cozart got a lot of hype before last season started as a guy who could combine speed and power at the top of the Reds' lineup.  Dusty Baker's conservative baserunning tactics and some unlucky breaks lead to a let down in the public arena.  His hitting wasn't the problem.  He went .246 with 15 HR last year, which is an encouraging sign, given his low BABIP and high LD% when compared to fellow short stops.

8-Ball Answer: Signs point to yes

Cozart's problem is named Billy Hamilton.  The "Usain Bolt" of minor league baseball is forcing Cincinnati's hand.  He needs a spot with the big club and SS is his primary position, though he's been rumored to be a CF in the future.  If Cozart doesn't produce, he could be a looking at a bench role. If he does, we may see Hamilton roaming center.

After he bopped 115 minor league HR and 25 in his first substantial major league stint, Stewart's name was associated with fireworks. He was drafted 10trh overall in 2003 because of that power and it is due in part to plate discipline.  Stewart has a .322 OBP in ML career despite a .179 BA over parts of the past two years. 

Even though manager Dale Sveum called the starting 3B job "(Stewart's) to lose," fellow 27-year-old Luis Valbuena could make that an easy task.  Stewart already popped a hammy and word around Wrigley is they might cut him.

8-Ball Answer: N/A (It broke during shaking)

When (or if) he comes back, Stewart has to return to his 2009 power output and that still may not be enough.

With Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler. Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin all ahead of him on the depth chart, E.Y.'s biggest hurdle will be waiting.  Walt Weiss wants to run and he's got a former minor league 80-steal guy in Young, Jr.  The skipper says he might use E.Y. in the infield as well, just to get him in the box. 

8-Ball Answer: EY is Really Really Fast

His 98 games in 2012 went really well offensively.  He went .316 with 14 SB, but he has to find a way to contribute defensively as well to win a regular spot in the lineup.  First up, find a position other than "leadoff hitter" to play. 

It could be argued that Gomez already had his breakout year in 2012.  He chalked up career highs across the board.  A surprising .260 AVG with 19 HR 51 RBI and 37 SB earned him some extra popularity with the fantasy community and perhaps a greater shot at being an everyday player in Milwaukee. 

8-Ball Answer: It is decidedly so

Gomez needs to prove that last year was no fluke. The door is open with Corey Hart sidelined and Ryan Braun potentially facing suspension. The starting centerfield job is his to start the year, but with Norichika Aoki and Logan Schafer around, a few weeks with pre-2012 numbers could open the door for someone else in the Brewers outfield. 

*Minor league numbers

Taylor is a beast.  A graceful 6'5 250 in RF with all five tools.  He just can't seem to put it all in motion and Oakland has noticed.  The As haven't put much faith in Taylor's amorphous abilities, and it makes a lot of sense.  The outfield is pretty strong.  Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Coco Crisp look poised to get the majority of playing time.

8-Ball Answer: Don't Count On It
(This Year)
Taylor has to convert his minor league numbers to the scoresheet.  He rocked PCL pitchers last year to the tune of 287/401/441 with 12 HR, 67 BI, 18 SB and a whopping 86 BB.  If he can replicate that kind of production or even something close to it, he'll find the field, in Oakland or somewhere else.

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