Age 27 Hitters Primed for a Breakout Season
Any seasoned fantasy baseball owner is familiar with the legend behind the 27-year-old baseball player. It seems that many major leaguers enter their prime once they turn 27 years old, and magically reach the potential that made baseball scouts swoon over them during their minor league careers. A prospect once considered elite (until he made his debut and put up some very pedestrian numbers), is a prime example of someone who has the potential to miraculously blossom during his 27th year.
Need a couple of examples to convince you of the importance of having at least one or two 27-year-olds on your fantasy team? Josh Hamilton had never hit more than 19 home runs in a season until he slugged 32 and drove in 130 runs during the 2008 season, during which he turned 27 years old. Allen Craig was 27 years old on Opening Day in 2012, and he posted career-bests with his 22 home runs, 35 doubles and 92 RBI that year. (He has since eclipsed his RBI total from that season.)
What follows is a list of players who will be 27 years old at some point this season and who have the potential for big production. In some cases, they’ve already enjoyed some success in the major leagues but have taken a step back and need to get their careers back on track. You may know some of their names, and for the ones you don’t recognize, keep them on your radar and familiarize yourself. Let’s have some fun with this list and examine some 27-years-olds who might just help you win your league.
Pablo Sandoval Third Baseman San Francisco Giants Bats: B Throws: R
Height: 5'11" Weight: 240 lb? Born: August 11, 1986
You might be asking yourself why I would put Pablo Sandoval, a career .298 hitter, on a list of candidates who will have a breakout year. (If you haven’t already, take a moment to ask yourself that question; I’ll wait.) I put him on this list because Sandoval’s batting average dropped from .315 in 2011, to .283 in 2012, to .278 in 2013. Physically, Sandoval had really let himself go. Over the past few seasons, he had missed a significant amount of time due to various injuries. Lets face it, when your nicknames are “Kung Fu Panda," “Fat Ichiro” and “Round Mound of Pound,” you know it's time for you to hit the gym. To his credit, it is obvious that Sandoval has done so this past offseason, as he reportedly has lost between 30 and 42 pounds, showing up to the Giants spring training facility in exceptional shape! Statistically, he is having a phenomenal spring, and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has already said that he will no longer need to remove Sandoval for a defensive replacement late in games. Sandoval is in the best shape of his career, and he will be a free agent at the end of this season. These are both huge factors that should help him return to the form that saw him hit .330, bang out 25 home runs and drive in 90 runs in 2009. Since third base is a fairly deep position, he should be available in the middle rounds of your draft. And oh yeah, there is one other thing: he is going to need a new nickname.
Projection: 575 AB, .315 AVG, 57 R, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB, .355 OBP
Jason Kipnis Second Baseman Cleveland Indians Bats: L Throws: R
Height: 5' 11" Weight: 190 lb Born: April 3, 1987
Jason Kipnis’s offensive stats have improved year after year. In 2013, Kipnis reached career highs in home runs with 17, runs batted in with 84 and doubles with 36, all while hitting a career-best .284. Coming into 2014 at the age of 27, he should be able to convert some of those doubles into home runs. If Kipnis can cut down on his strikeouts, there is also no reason that he can’t push his batting average closer to the .300 mark or drive in closer to 100 runs and still steal 30+ bases. Kipnis could be poised to have the kind of year that will result in him being on the cover of several fantasy sports magazines next season. Look for him to be chosen within the first three rounds of your draft, and even there he has upside.
Projection: 565 AB, .292, AVG, 85 R, 20 HR, 92 RBI, 35 SB, .360 OBP
Matt Wieters Catcher Baltimore Orioles Bats: B Throws: R
Height: 6' 5" Weight: 240 lb Born: May 21, 1986
Once an elite prospect, Matt Wieters has consistently provided fantasy baseball owners with 20+ homers and 80+ runs batted in over the past few seasons; however, his batting average dropped to .235 in 2013 and has been spiraling downward since the 2011 season. The silver lining for the Orioles backstop who compiled a .343 lifetime minor league batting average was his very low .247 BABIP last season, which demonstrates that some bad luck could have contributed to his hitting woes. At 27 years of age, the time is now for Wieters to fulfill the expectations of fantasy baseball managers and the scouts who expected that he would be one of the elite catchers in the game by this stage of his career. I am optimistic that Wieters will increase his walk rate and ride the wave of the 27-year-old magical mystery tour. Expect him to be available in the middle to later rounds of your draft.
Projection: 545 AB, .252 AVG, 63 R, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .310 OBP
Lorenzo Cain Outfielder Kansas City Royals Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 205 lb Born: April 13, 1986
Lorenzo Cain is a perfect example of a 27-year-old ballplayer who is poised to have a breakout year. Although he is a great defensive outfielder, Cain has compiled a very ordinary lifetime .266 batting average. Injuries limited his at bats last season, but on a positive note, he did finish 2013 with career highs in stolen bases (14), doubles (21) and runs (54). There are two reasons to be hopeful about Cain’s upcoming season. Reason number one is that he is 27 years old. Reason number two is that if you look at Cain’s minor league stats, you’ll see a lot of potential. He compiled a lifetime minor league batting average of .294 and also showed flashes of above-average power and speed. Keep an eye out for Cain. You don’t need to draft him, because no one in your league will likely touch him come draft day, but you should watch him closely. You may wish to add him off of your league’s waiver wire, because this could be the season that Cain will finally actualize his potential.
Projection: 450 AB, .276 AVG, 67 R, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 15 SB, .305 OBP
Trevor Plouffe Third Baseman Minnesota Twins Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 205 lb Born: June 15, 1986
If anyone needs to have a breakout season, it's Trevor Plouffe. The Minnesota 3B batted .265 with 10 home runs and 34 runs batted in during the first half of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, his offensive numbers took a dive in the second half, as he batted just .243 with four home runs and 18 runs batted. The Twins were expecting home run production closer to the 24 dingers that he hit in 2012, and just in case they feel that he can’t replicate those numbers, they have prospect Miguel Sano waiting in the wings for a possible call-up at some point. Plouffe knows that he could be fighting for his third base job, and he needs to get off to a quick start. In preparation for the battle, he came into camp with an extra 10 to 12 pounds of muscle on his frame. Keep a watchful eye on Plouffe-- he may just surprise you. If he is drafted at all, it won’t be until the later rounds of your draft.
Projection: 545 AB, .257 AVG, 59 R, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 2 SB, .313 OBP