Jose Bautista and 19 Other of the Greatest Late Bloomers in Baseball History
Posted by Rich Stowe on May 2, 2011
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What exactly is a late bloomer in regards to baseball?
Well, in my opinion, it’s someone that didn’t start to have productive years at the Major League level until they turned 28 years old or older.
It can be someone that toiled in the minor leagues for years and finally got their shot at "The Show" and made the best of it or it’s someone who was basically a role player but then all of a sudden they turned it on when they "got old" and started having MVP type years.
It was hard to find late bloomers from baseball’s early days; players were either good right from the start or they weren’t around long enough to turn it around. Once the minor leagues started, players were given more of a chance to develop so a chance for a late bloomer increased.
The rise of the Steroid Era drastically increased the number of late bloomers in baseball. Older players all of a sudden started having Hall of Fame careers while doing nothing earlier in their careers.
In order to be in this list, the player could not have been in consideration for any award before they turned 28 or have any "black ink" in key categories on their Baseball-Reference player page before the age of 28.
While there may be others, here’s who I think are the 20 best late bloomers in baseball history, in no particular order. Some may surprise you.
Let’s start with Jose Bautista. From the age of 23 in 2004 through the age of 28 in 2009, Jose Bautista’s career was unimpressive. He never hit more than 16 home runs in a single season, never had a batting average over .254 and his OPS+ was never higher than 99.
In 2010 at the age of 29, Bautista hit 54 HRs, batted .260 and had an OPS+ of 166.
In 2011 so far, he’s leading the league in batting average, OBP, Slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, Total Bases, HRs, and runs scored. He’s basically become one of the most dangerous hitters in the game at the age of 30.
Pretty impressive for someone who basically was used solely as a player in trades until he turned 29 years old.