Late Bloomers: David Lough Comparables

Ed Zurga

David Lough is a minor sensation as a 27 year old rookie. What is the precedent for such late blooming? Here are some examples.

The David Lough sensation has swept the nation. Every where you look, teenage girls across the Midwest are wearing t-shirts adorned with the face of the young left-hander from Mercyhurst College. LOUGH! LOUGH! LOUGH! shout the throngs of Kansas Citians who have caught the fever. But is it a one year fad, or does this rookie have staying power?

It is not common for a player to stew in the minor leagues until age 27, then come on to become a solid Major League regular. As of today, the 27 year old left-hander is hitting .300/.316/.442 for a 107 OPS+ and 2.5 WAR for our Royals. Can this possibly last?

I wanted to look back at non-middle infielders in the divisional era (1969 and later) who got their first full shot at big league ball (300 plate appearances or more) at age 27 or later and hit league-average or better in that rookie year (100 OPS+ or greater). If you're interested in middle infielders, check out names like Mike Aviles, Keith Lockhart, Melvin Mora, and Junior Spivey. I also excluded Cuban and Japanese free agents for obvious reasons.

What were the long-term prospects for these late bloomers?

Rookie


Rookie Year


Rookie Year Stats


Sophomore Year Stats


Career WAR After Rookie Year


AVG


OBA


SLG


AVG


OBA


SLG


Benny Agbayani

1999

.286

.363

.525

.289

.390

.477

0.8

Bruce Aven

1999

.289

.370

.444

.250

.284

.440

0.0

Bob Brower

1987

.261

.338

.452

.224

.316

.274

1.1

Brant Brown

1998

.291

.347

.501

.232

.283

.449

-2.4

Brian Buchanan

2001

.274

.342

.487

.269

.322

.467

0.5

Brian Daubach

1999

.294

.360

.562

.248

.315

.448

4.2

Jack Daugherty

1990

.300

.347

.435

.194

.269

.264

-1.4

Morgan Ensberg

2003

.291

.370

.530

.275

.329

.411

9.1

Lew Ford

2004

.299

.381

.446

.264

.337

.377

2.7

Dave Gallagher

1988

.303

.354

.406

.266

.319

.314

2.6

John Jaha

1993

.264

.337

.416

.241

.331

.412

11.6

Garrett Jones

2009

.293

.372

.567

.247

.306

.414

2.1

Coco Laboy

1969

.258

.308

.409

.199

.254

.299

-3.4

Bryan LaHair

2012

.259

.334

.450

N/A

N/A

N/A

0

Fred Lewis

2008

.282

.351

.440

.258

.348

.390

1.9

Carlos Lopez

1977

.283

.320

.431

.238

.275

.332

-0.2

Daniel Nava

2012

.243

.353

.390

.282

.369

.420

1.5

Kevin Millar

1999

.285

.361

.433

.259

.364

.498

13.8

Randy Milligan

1989

.268

.394

.458

.265

.408

.492

9.5

Nyjer Morgan

2009

.307

.370

.388

.253

.319

.314

2.9

Troy Neel

1993

.290

.367

.473

.266

.356

.475

1.7

Jim Norris

1977

.270

.360

.364

.283

.364

.378

1.1

Scott Podsednik

2003

.314

.379

.443

.244

.313

.363

3.4

Curtis Pride

1996

.300

.372

.513

.213

.318

.341

-0.1

Rolando Roomes

1989

.263

.296

.419

.227

.237

.333

-0.2

F.P. Santangelo

1996

.277

.368

.407

.249

.380

.374

2.7

Terrmel Sledge

2004

.269

.336

.462

.243

.348

.378

-0.8

Ryan Spilborghs

2007

.299

.363

.485

.313

.407

.468

-0.5

Josh Willingham

2006

.277

.356

.496

.265

.364

.463

15.8

Average

.283

.355

.453

.255

.333

.397

2.8

Others who almost fit thist list and had a nice career:

Allen Craig could possibly on this list, but I excluded him because he was really an important reserve for a full year at age 26 before getting a full-time shot at age 27 for the Cardinals, which isn't quite the same as Lough.

Fellow Cardinal David Freese was a part-timer at age 27 with not enough plate appearances to qualify for this, but was above league average, and went onto become a starter, an All-Star, and a World Series hero.

Travis Hafner spent most of his age 26 season in the big leagues as a part-timer, and was a full-timer at age 27, putting up a .993 OPS.

Ron LeFlore got a late jump to his career because of jail, but debuted as a part-timer at age 26 with Detroit, and was a full-timer at age 27, although he posted just an 84 OPS+ his first year. He would quickly become an above-average hitter, becoming an All-Star at age 28.

Luke Scott was a part-timer at age 28, posting a 1.047 OPS in just 249 plate appearances, then went on to become a very productive hitter for a number of years.

The Greek God of Walks, Kevin Youkilis, got 248 plate appearances his first year at age 25, but yo-yo'd between Boston and Pawtucket til age 27 when he got a full-time chance and hit .279/.381/.429.

As you would expect there is a lot of regression in year two. There are a couple of players that went on to have lengthy careers like Kevin Millar, Josh Willingham, and John Jaha. A lot of these players are prototypical Moneyball-type players, guys like Troy Neel and Kevin Millar. These are players that were probably overlooked because they didn't fit a scouting report, but they could draw walks and mash the ball, and languished until a Billy Beane-type GM gave them a chance.

David Lough doesn't really fit that profile at all. He's closer to a Curtis Pride or Fred Lewis, a guy that does a lot of things well, but nothing exceptional. He is a guy that never put up huge numbers in the minors but always seemed to do well enough to move up the ladder. It wouldn't be totally unprecedented to see a late bloomer like Lough have a productive Major League career for many years. But most likely, this kind of production is going to be short-lived. Let's enjoy David while we can, but any future plans involving him should be written in pencil.

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