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January 4, 2013

Pebble Hunting

The Saddest Age-27 Seasons of 2012

by Sam Miller

Eight months ago, I wrote about the saddest age-27 seasons in recent history, the idea being that age-27 is, if not the panacea that turns every player into his best self, at least the last year that we pay attention to post-hype sleepers. Or, as I wrote, “It’s the year when, if you hit .253/.289/.418 in the PCL, smart people will probably quit writing spring training love letters calling you the comeback kid.” That was about Brandon Wood, who ended up hitting .259/.313/.409 in the PCL. I can’t tell you how happy I am that nobody has identified a year of my life when I’m supposed to stop feeling good about myself.

But if baseball's age 27 lasts just one season for each player, it lasts forever for us—we get older, but 27-year-olds stay the same age—and so this year there was a whole new group of age-27s. Here are 10 potential nails in coffins, ranked by dispiritability.

10. Drew Stubbs
Top line of his resume: Former eighth-overall pick, hit 22 homers with 30 steals and 4.1 WARP as a 25-year-old.
2012: .213/.277/.333, -1.6 WARP in 544 PA, major leagues
R.J. Anderson wrote about Stubbs recently, and put his offensive production in perspective:

Stubbs has managed to combine the unpleasantness of below-average contact with below-average power production—a combination as desirable as a finesse pitcher without control.

And it’s true: The strikeouts keep his batting average low, while the rest of his offensive abilities keep him from contributing much else. Only one player in history—Adam Dunn—has struck out at least 150 times (Stubbs struck out 166) while knocking fewer extra-base hits than Stubbs did in 2012. Only one—Cory Snyder—has struck out at least 150 times with a lower OBP than Stubbs had in 2012. He doesn’t really fit the age-27 category I’m describing, because nobody will give up on him for a few years still, thanks to recent success in the majors and potentially valuable defense. But Stubbs used to be really good, and now he’s 28, and he’s not.

9. Matt Antonelli
Top line on his resume: Former 17th-overall pick, top-50 prospect.
2012: .201/.324/.286 in 183 plate appearances in Triple-A
Antonelli keeps a personal blog that makes me like him: he raises money for his friend with ALS, for instance, and publishes his personal email address, and posts entire newspaper articles that are written about him, copyright law be darned. Here’s what I know about Antonelli’s year:

  • He got married
  • Ate pizza and pasta at every meal on his honeymoon, and “enough gelato to kill a small horse. I'm serious.”
  • Lived out of his car some
  • Cut down his own Christmas tree for the first time
  • Saw a group of six men playing a giant game of Magic: The Gathering in a McDonalds
  • etc.

Also was released by the Orioles, claimed by the Yankees, and released by the Yankees. He didn’t play after early July, but the Indians picked him up this winter.

8. Emmanuel Burriss
Top line on his resume: First-round pick (31st overall) by the Giants in 2006.
2012: .213/.270/.221, -0.9 WARP in 150 PA, major leagues

Burriss hit one double in 2012, his only extra-base hit. Here it is:

It was the second year in a row he has collected more than 100 plate appearances and fewer than two (but more than zero) extra-base hits. What’s fascinating about Burriss is that he’s not nearly as small as you’re imagining. He’s listed at six feet, 205 pounds, more than 50 pounds heavier than when he enrolled in college. And at one point late his final year of college he was slugging .528.  

7. Ryan Harvey
Top line on his resume: Sixth-overall pick in the 2003 draft.
2012: .302/.342/.563 in 427 PA for Lancaster in the Independent Atlantic League.

We once wrote of Harvey,

Harvey was the sixth overall pick in 2003, a high school monster-masher whose tools generate puddles under the chairs in the scout’s section at the ballpark.

which is, ew. Harvey had previously spent his his age-26 season trying to convert to pitching with Boston but never made it out of extended spring training. John Halama was his teammate with Lancaster. Halama is 40. Filing that away for my next piece on best age-40 seasons in independent leagues.

6. Matt LaPorta
Top line on his resume: Seventh-overall pick, slugged .696 in his first professional season.
2012: .241/.267/.328, -0.4 WARP in 60 PA, major leagues

Even Google has moved on.



5. Felix Pie
Top line of his resume: Hit .321/.385/.569 as a 17-year-old stateside.
2012: .353/.386/.608 for Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League
One of his teammates with the Riversharks was Pedro Feliz, who managed to have a better walk rate than Pie. That slash line got Pie signed by the Braves, who kept him in Triple-A all season. He slugged a respectable .459 (league-average was just .389), which didn’t get him called up but did earn him a minor-league contract this winter with the Pirates. With Baltimore, Cleveland, and the Cubs behind him, that puts Pie just three transactions (Royals, Mariners, Padres) away from winning bad-team bingo.

4. Chris Coghlan
Top line on his resume: 2009 Rookie of the Year
2012: .140/.212/.183, -1.0 WARP in 105 PA, major leagues
Rookie of the Year is such a weird thing to give. It seems like the idea is to reward somebody who is very good for being very young; but the voting protocols often end up rewarding players who are fairly old, or disallowing players who are actually very good and very young. Chris Coghlan won the Rookie of the Year award when he was 24, which isn’t particularly old, but these are other players who were 24 or younger that season but couldn’t win the Rookie of the Year by virtue of being the exact same age (or younger) but having already played in the majors:

All of them would have been deserving of recognition for being young and exceptional. Instead Chris Coghlan got to win. Congratulations! You won the race by virtue of arriving long after everybody else and running quite a bit slower. It’s a dumb race!

3. Ian Stewart
Top line on his resume: Made five consecutive BA top 100s, including a fourth-overall ranking before 2005.
2012: .201/.292/.335, -0.7 WARP in 202 PA, major leagues
Stewart had wrist surgery in July after playing through pain for a year and a half, so he’ll get another shot. In the past two seasons,

And Stewart had the ballparks at his back.

2. Joel Guzman
Top line of his resume: BA’s fifth-best prospect before 2005, after hitting .280/.325/.522 as a 19-year-old in the Double-A Southern League.
2012: .322/.344/.494 in 90 plate appearances, Mexican League.
Before he went to Mexico—where 35-year-old teammate John Lindsay hit .341/.415/.631—Guzman was back in the Southern League, where he’d been so impressive as a teenager. This year he hit just .263/.328/.394 as a member of the Reds organization. It’s been four years since we mentioned him in an Annual.

1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Top line of his resume: Universal fantasy sleeper before 2011 season
2012: .258/.315/.324 in Triple-A; .000/.071/.000 in 14 big-league PA.
Nishioka resigns from American baseball with the seventh-lowest isolated power in history, but that’s only because of the deadball era; move the parameters up to 1920 and a minimum of 250 plate appearances and Nishioka takes the title. He batted only 14 times in the majors in 2012, so, of course, take this with a grain of salt, but pitchers threw him 85 percent fastballs this year—and, if you count cutters in that group, 93 percent fastballs. Nishioka, a switch hitter who batted from the left side in all 14 trips, could manage only to do this with them:



He will not be back.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

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