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May 4, 2012 3:00 am

Pebble Hunting: When Age 27 Doesn't Work Out

10

Sam Miller

Brandon Wood is in the midst of yet another disappointing season at age 27. What other players have bottomed out when they were supposed to be peaking?

You couldn’t ask for a better place to hit than Colorado Springs. Last year, the hometown Sky Sox batted .305/.366/.489 as a team and allowed a 6.49 ERA as a team. It’s the craziest place to hit in the craziest league to hit, and it’s where Brandon Wood is hitting .253/.289/.418, with 19 strikeouts and three walks. It’s his age-27 season.

It’s wrong to say that age-27 is the magical year when everybody sets new personal bests. Some hitters peak in their 30s and some in their early 20s and some when they’re 25 and some when they’re 29. Twenty-seven is just a number, and when it starts a sentence, a hyphenated word. It’s only as significant as you make it.

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Using the relative strength of each draft class can help us determine whether Brien Taylor really is the worst first-overall pick in history.

To date, six of the 46 players taken with the first-overall pick in baseball’s annual Rule 4 draft have not played in the major leagues. Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, and Tim Beckham—the top choices in three of the last four drafts—remain active, while a fourth, Matt Bush, currently resides in Charlotte County (Fla.) jail as police investigate a series of hit-and-run accidents on March 23 that left a 72-year-old motorcyclist comatose.

Only two former number-one picks have retired from the game without reaching the big leagues: catcher Steve Chilcott, taken by the Mets in 1966, and left-hander Brien Taylor, the Yankees’ top choice in 1991. Both players’ careers were derailed by injury, though Chilcott’s performance, even when healthy, inspired little confidence in his major-league future. Taylor, on the other hand, quickly established himself as an elite prospect before tearing the labrum in his left shoulder during an altercation in December 1993. Rehabilitation cost Taylor the 1994 season, not to mention eight miles an hour from his fastball, and the arm that changed the draft never realized the potential of what some consider the greatest high school pitcher they’ve ever seen.

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