Upon the retirement of Rocco Baldelli at the early age of 29, Matt Klaassen thought it fit to try and figure out what type of career he may have had if injuries hadn't ravaged his legs. Klaassen used the Similarity Score-based comparables on baseball-reference.com through Baldelli's age 24 season - his peak. The results were interesting: Ellis Burks, Gary Maddux, Gary Matthews Sr. It's a really interesting piece and I suggest you all go check it out. That got me to thinking, what players are some of the current Rays most similar to by age?*
*I'm only taking the players on roster with more than a few years of experience
B.J. Upton (25): Lee Mazzilli
Mazzilli's age 25 season wasn't bad by any stretch. He posted an OPS+ of 126 while stealing 45 bases and posting a .370 OBP. It would also be the last season in which Mazzilli played more than 111 games. Injuries took a tool on his career and he would play sparingly over nine more seasons. Let's hope the same doesn't happen to B.J.
I'm relieved Longoria's age 24 season comparable is Rolen, because at age 23 it was Hank Blalock. When his career is over I think Rolen will end up being one of the more under appreciated players of his era. There's a reason there are only 10 third basemen in the Hall of Fame; it's really tough to remain durable playing there. Rolen has had his share of injuries, but should have a strong Hall of Fame case when he retires. Not many third basemen hit .284/.369/498 over 15+ seasons. I think we all expect Longoria to be a better version of Rolen, which is lofty praise.
Ben Zobrist (29): Don Hoak.
I had no idea who Don Hoak was before researching this. He played for five teams over an 11 year career. His age 29 seasons just happened to be his best. He was an All-Star, OPS'ing .863 and putting up an OPS+ of 125, and leading the league with 39 doubles. Hoak enjoyed a few more productive seasons before retiring in 1964.
Kelly Shoppach (30): Chris Widger
Chris Widger. Gross.
Shields' most comparable player at age 27 was Scott Baker. That's funny, because I've always thought of them in a similar fashion, but had never checked that. Seeing Carl Pavano's name there will stir up a range of emotions, I'm sure. However, Pavano's age 28 season is the one that caused the Yankees to give him that regretful contract. He went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA that year for Florida. We all know that his years in New York didn't go so well, but he's turned his career around nicely with the Twins. If we're lucky Shields will grow a mustache half as good as Pavano.
David Price (24): Roger Moret
Price really only has one full season of starts to work off of. Moret pitched for three teams over nine seasons, retiring in 1978 with a 3.66 ERA. His 1973 season, at age 24, was his best, going 13-2 with a 3.17 ERA for the Red Sox. I'm sure as Price's career progresses we'll see some more impressive names on his list.
They haven't played a game for the Rays yet, but just for fun lets look at Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Manny's age 38 comparable is Ken Griffey Jr, and Damon's age 37 is Vada Pinson. Damon's most similar batter of all time is Tim Raines, which is neat.
I wouldn't try and extrapolate too much from those comparisons, but they sure are interesting to look at.