Sano and Kepler Are Missing Their Age-27 Peak Season in 2020
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsOver at ESPN.com, David Schoenfield wrote about all the players that would have played the 2020 season as their age-27 campaign. Besides Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, the list includes, Gary Sanchez, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Truner, Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Tim Anderson, and Matt Chapman. Multiple players on this list have already had great seasons in their careers, so what’s so special about being 27-years old?
Baseball front office and fans have search for years to find out when a player reaches their peak performance. Bill James has done multiple studies on the subject dating back to the early-1980s. His aging patter study from 2017 confirmed his previous research that at age-27 players are in their peak season. Tom Tango did a different study and reached the same result with players peaking at 27 and having their best decade from age 23-32.
Kepler was already coming off a breakout season where he hit .252/.336/.519 with 36 home runs and 32 doubles. According to Baseball Reference, he had the third highest WAR on the Twins while FanGraphs had him tied for the team lead. He finished in the top-20 for MVP voting, so it was certainly going to be tough for him to match those numbers again in 2020.
Questions about Sano’s age have followed him since he was an amateur and there was even a documentary made about him being signed. When Twins Daily was first getting started, I wrote about Sano and the questions surrounding his age. Realistically, MLB investigated Sano’s situation and couldn’t verify his exact age and the topic has been largely forgotten.
Last season, Sano set career highs in home runs (34), OPS (.923), slugging (.576), and RBI (79). He’s had three seasons where he has played more than 100 big-league games and he has averaged 29 home runs per season. His switch to first base was going to be an intriguing story line to watch this year because it might have allowed him to play more than 116 games, his career high from 2016.
FanGraphs ZIPS projections for a full season had Kepler posting an .825 OPS while hitting 28 home runs and 31 doubles. The player comp for his was Trot Nixon and his WAR dipped from 4.4 in 2019 to 3.1 in 2020. This total only trailed the projected WAR total for Josh Donaldson. Sano was pegged for 35 home runs, 19 doubles, and a drop in OPS to .881. His player comp was Jay Buhner and FanGraphs had him tied with Nelson Cruz for fifth on the team in WAR.
There are still plenty of questions swirling around baseball and if there will be any games played in 2020. That being said, it’s clear Twins fans are losing out on what could have been a pair of peak seasons from Sano and Kepler.
Who do you think would have compiled better numbers this season, Sano or Kepler? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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