These Older Veteran Players Are Still Smart Fantasy Draft Choices
Following what many called the “Year of the Rookie,” it’s important not to overlook the elder statesmen of Major League Baseball. These are older veteran players that continue to prove that age is just a number and remain valuable Fantasy assets.
In my longest running Fantasy league (Syosset Little League), I became famous for drafting Gary Sheffield year in and year out. Sheffield went from being an early-round team cornerstone to a mid-round position filler to a late-round flier. And every year, I’d draft him and say, “Thanks for Sheffield!” The later I got him, the more value he provided to my team.
In the twilight of his career, Sheff kept putting up solid numbers as my flex utility/fourth outfielder, smashing 20 or more home runs in every season he played 130 or more games. I’m not building my team around these “older” guys, but I’m happy with a veteran with a high floor, along with pitching, at the back end of my Fantasy drafts.
[caption id="attachment_104634" align="alignright" width="404"] A healthy Matt Holliday can be a cheap fifth outfielder in mixed league play. Photo Credit: Keith Allison[/caption]
While the crop of impact players in their 20s continues to grow, there are still players 35 or older that look to be beating Father Time. Obviously, there’s a point when the numbers start to tail off and these veterans are forced to take a back seat to the younger generation, but these 35- to 40-year-olds are still worth having on your Fantasy team in 2016. They provide great value, as looking at mock drafts and draft recaps it’s obvious that most Fantasy owners prefer selecting the unproven, up-and-comer over veteran consistency.'
Going into a draft, you want third round value from your eighth round pick, tenth round value from your last round pick, and so on and so forth. The more value you attain, the better your team will be at season’s end. With any luck, the following players will give you great value due to one simple factor -- age.
These oldies but goodies are similar to post-hype prospects who turn into great deep sleepers. Here are a group of players over the age of 35 who can help you win your Fantasy league this season.
Fantasy Relevant 40-Somethings
Let’s start with a future Hall of Famer who will be retiring following the 2016 season. David Ortiz, who has always a flair for the dramatic, announced his retirement on his 40th birthday and with this being his farewell tour, I expect Big Papi to at least match the 30 home runs and 100 RBIs he has compiled each of the past three years.
Being drafted in the seventh or eighth round makes Oritz a great value pick and he sure is a sure thing. Players like Jose Abreu and Joey Votto are being taken in the first 30 picks, while Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez are going 20 picks before Papi. Those players may not give you the 30 home runs and 100 RBIs that Ortiz puts up every season. I say take Big Papi around the 80th pick in your draft and enjoy watching him help your Fantasy squad in his final season.
Another 40-year-old coming off a renaissance season is the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. Following his one-year suspension in connection with the Biogenesis scandal, A-Rod smacked 33 home runs while scoring 83 runs and knocking in 86 RBIs. With all reports saying that Rodriguez is ahead of where he was at this point last season, I think it’s reasonable to expect at least 22 homers and 80-plus runs and RBIs in 2016.
A-Rod’s ADP (240) makes him an even more appetizing option. I’ll happily take those numbers from my 20th round pick. If you’re smart, you’ll take a late-round flier on the Yankees’ DH and assume last year wasn’t a fluke.
Very Late-Round Older Veteran Players
Older outfielders often worry Fantasy owners because when their legs give out, the numbers typically go bye bye. And the age of 35 is usually when that happens. Like Sheffield did for me in the late 2000s, as long as these guys play 130 games they’ll put up the stats you’re hoping for.
Matt Holliday, now 36, is the perfect example of this, coming off his age-35 season where he played just 73 games due to quad injuries. This offseason, Holliday changed his diet and lost weight in preparation for the final year of his current seven-year, $120 million contract. After recently saying that he wants to finish his career with the Cardinals, the best way for him to do so would be to put up the numbers we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him -- 20-plus home runs, 90 RBIs and 85 runs. And don’t forget about Holliday’s career .307 batting average. If he’s healthy, which looks to be the case, those stats should be a given.
Plus, Holliday is being drafted after the 15th round, which looks like a bargain as long as he is past last season’s injury woes. Having the chance to draft a player slated to bat third 200-plus picks into a draft, who also happens to be in a contract year, sounds like money to me.
Another player coming off a lost 2015 is the Nationals’ Jayson Werth. Werth, who turns 37 on May 20, has been a 20-20 threat for years. I think those days are behind him, but I like any player likely to bat in the two hole directly in front of reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.
In his last two full seasons, Werth has averaged 20 home runs, 84.5 runs, 82 RBIs, 9.5 stolen bases and a .304 batting average. I love any veteran hitting in the perfect spot in a lineup on my Fantasy team, especially one currently going undrafted. I say you swipe Werth with one of your last two picks and appreciate the veteran value coming from the Nats’ outfielder.
Carlos Beltran is another hitter slated to bat in the middle of a quality lineup going way too late in drafts. The outfielder, who turns 39 in April, will likely bat fifth for the Yankees, putting him in line for a lot of RBI opportunities this coming season.
Beltran has been completely consistent over his 17-plus seasons in MLB, meaning his numbers will be based on how many games he plays, and thus, how healthy he is this year. If he can stay on the field, the right fielder should put up numbers similar to 2015, during which he jacked 19 home runs and batted .276. From a guy being drafted in the 24th round or later, I’ll take my chances on Beltran.
Yes, all of these players are in the back end of their careers, but the later they go in drafts the more value they’ll provide to your Fantasy team. These “old” guys can still play so give them a shot to be yours this coming season.
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