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At age 27 in the majors, things are tough since all the media attention is on younger players getting to their prime, players falling out of their prime, and those veterans taking their final victory lap.

Players in their prime seem like an afterthought at times, but good thing for players at age 27, they have a higher possibility to break out of their current player form and become something better.

The myth that at age 27 a player reaches a maturation that allows for a breakout is no longer widely accepted.

Players breakout at all ages including 27 years old, but there isn’t any concrete evidence to show that at age 27, a player is predestined to take the next step.

However, there are a handful of players at age 27 that started their ascent into the MLB spotlight in 2016, and these three are poised to continue that development into 2017.

2017 Fantasy Baseball

Keon Broxton, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (May 7, 1990)

Broxton is fast. That’s the first thing you need to know about him since at this point in his career he hasn’t had much fanfare. Broxton stole at least 40 bases across all levels the last two years, and you would have to go back to 2013 to find a season in which he didn’t steal at least 20 bases over the full year. Many have pegged him as just a speed/defense-fourth-outfielder type, but he is much more than just that.

Broxton is a unicorn. In 2016, he was basically Chris Carter with a lot of speed as evidenced by Broxton’s 148 wRC+ in the second half of 2016. He had an average exit velocity of 90.2, which puts him seventh out of 389 qualified hitters. Broxton is one of two hitters to have an above average HR/FB rate (above 12.8% in 2016) and pop the ball up less than 1%. The other player is Mike Trout.

Broxton has the unique ability to hit the ball hard (43% Hard contact rate) without generating pop ups, but the holes in his game ultimately hurt his productivity.

Broxton has issues. Broxton’s issues have been making contact (65.1 Contact%) and striking out (36.1 K%), so that puts a dent in his future value as he most likely wont make enough contact to hit at an MVP caliber player. Broxton will also feel the pressure from some of the Brewers prospects pushing into the Majors which could lead to less at-bats if he does not play well.

Currently, Broxton is projected to be the Brewers everyday center field and two-hole hitter. The second spot in the order is the most conducive to RBI and run chances, so Broxton has the chance to help in those categories as well with Jonathan Villar hitting in front of him and Ryan Braun protecting him.

A lot hinges on Broxton’s ability to increase the amount of contact he makes and to sustain his .373 BABIP. His BABIP seems high, but a .330 clip is within reach with his batted ball profile. If he can patch those holes in 2017, Broxton could end up generating just as many Fantasy points as Chris Davis with Broxton’s power/ speed combination generating runs and RBIs out of the 2-hole.

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (April 22, 1990)

Kiermaier is already an elite defender, but his MLB average bat is holding him back from super stardom. That started to change already and 2017 Kiermaier is poised to breakout at age 27.

It starts with Kiermaier’s change in approach. Last season, he had a BB% of 9.7%, which is a byproduct of not swinging at pitches outside the zone. He had an O-Swing% of 27.9 which is down from 32.8% in 2015. Kiermaier started hitting the ball harder at a bigger clip as well as his hard contact rate rose from 24.6% in 2015 to 31.4% in 2016.

The next step in Kiermaier’s evolution as a hitter is his batted ball profile. An 8.3 percentage point spike in FB%to 37.6% lead to a career high of 12 home runs. Those dozen dongs came in 50 less games than the 10 he hit in 2015. Kiermaier pulled the extra FB% from his GB%, which is what you want a power hitter to do, but early returns on the raised fly ball rate lead to a decreased BABIP and in return a lower batting average.

Kiermaier’s speed should help mitigate the loss in BABIP over the full season by giving him more chances to reach base on ball he hits on the ground; however this return to normalcy in batting average is dependent on his ability to stay on the field.

The final step is to stay healthy. A lot rides on Kiermaier’s health. If he can stay on the field, Kiermaier could easily earn 600 PAs, and if he can continue the trends he started in 2016, that should lead to a 15/20 player contributing to both runs and RBIs (depending either first or second in the batting order) while not totally tanking your batting average.

Tyler Anderson, SP, Colorado Rockies (December 30, 1989)

Anderson was a rookie last year and was an afterthought to most Fantasy owners outside of Colorado. While everyone is nabbing Jon Gray to be the Rockies breakout starter, Tyler Anderson is just as likely to break out in his age 27 season.

Anderson had a nice 3.54 ERA but a pedestrian 20.7 K%. Jumping into his game log, there are two starts that stand out since they were Anderson’s only starts with less than five innings pitched. In those games, Anderson surrendered nine earned runs, so removing those starts leaves Anderson with a 3.02 ERA, which is spectacular considering both starts were on the road and his home ERA is 3.00.

Those stats came in only 114 innings, so a full season of Anderson could lead to major Fantasy dividends for a ground ball pitcher. Kyle Hendricks is a fairly similar comparison and broke out last season behind an amazing Cubs defense in 2015.

2016 Pitching Profiles K% BB% GB% FB% Soft% Hard% FIP-
Tyler Anderson 20.7 5.9 50.9 28.7 24.2 28.2 81
Kyle Hendricks 22.8 5.8 48.4 31.3 25 25.8 78

 

As you can see both pitchers had a pretty similar profile in 2016, but Anderson throws his pitches a lot differently. Both players sit around the low 90s with their fastball, but the difference is Hendricks’ sinker/change-up combo that was 40 runs above average (according to PITCHf/x Pitch Value) where Anderson’s sinker/change-up combo was much worse at 4.8 points below league average. His change-up was oddly his hardest hit pitch, but produced the best swing and miss rates at 20%.

For Anderson to break out, he should dump the sinker and replace it with his breaking pitch (only threw his curve ball 23 times in 2016). He could also stand to benefit from not throwing as many strikes since batters swung at 50.5% of his pitches last year making contact with 78.9% of them.

By pitching more out of the strike zone and throwing more curve balls, Anderson has a chance to strike out more batters. Pitching in Coors while trying to make these changes could lead to a statistical regression for Anderson; however, I like his chances to excel in 2017.

 

All three players would be considered potential breakouts without being 27, but the shift in Fantasy focus to much younger players has allowed these three to fall in drafts. Broxton and Kiermaier turn 27 during the season, so look for them to breakout a month in. This trio will provide late-round value as they all have decent floors, but as a late-round pick, there is not much risk in them not panning out.

 

2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit
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Aaron Hinckley

An aspiring stay at home dad, Aaron is a graduate of Mercer University who is a self proclaimed analytical nut and master grilled cheese maker.

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