10 Players Over 35 Poised for 1 More Year of Fantasy Excellence


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Our countdown to the draft kit continues today with a look at the old guys. It may be a young man’s game, but today, Michael Dixon will take a look at 10 Players Over 35 Poised for 1 More Year of Fantasy Excellence.

Previous Countdown Pieces: 14131211.

Who doesn’t love it when some old guy clearly at the end of his career has one last good run in him? The name of the game in pretty much any sport is youth. Fantasy baseball is no different, especially in this day and age, where every player in the world is looking for this year’s Mike Trout or Yasiel Puig.

Understandable, but that doesn’t mean that some of the old guys can’t still help you win a championship. Those are the guys we’re looking for today.

So, what’s the criteria for the list?

  1. The player must be in his Age 35 season, or older. For an exact date, that means that they have to be born before July 1, 1979 to qualify.
  2. These are guys at the end of their careers. While guys like Adrian Beltre, Joe Nathan, and David Ortiz certainly meet the standard, I haven’t seen any signs that 2014 will be the end of their respective roads as good players, fantasy or otherwise, come October. Maybe something will happen on they’ll be on next year’s list but for now, they’re just too good.

Get it? Got it? Good!

Let’s start with the hitters.

Raul Ibanez: Los Angeles Angels

  • Why I like him in 2014

The power. Raul Ibanez is a guy whose stats are primarily built his long ball capabilities, and he’s still got those. This is a guy who hit 17 of his 29 HR’s in 2013 at Safeco Field, so I’m not too worried about Anaheim.

We’re also talking about a guy who’s slashed at .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances/295 at-bats in his career at the new home digs. You will take a hit in average and stolen bases, but the power numbers should be more than good enough for a utility guy or fourth/fifth outfielder.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

It pretty simply comes down to his age. Ibanez will be 42 this June, meaning 2015 will be his Age 43 season.

Additionally, the Angels are going to have to transition Albert Pujols into more of a DH role, making Ibanez, only on a one-year deal, an odd man out. There are plenty of other AL teams, but I don’t see a great match in any place where I’d like his chances for big stats.

Ryan Ludwick: Cincinnati Reds

  • Why I like him in 2014

The Reds need a right handed bat in the middle of that order. Right now, that guy is Brandon Phillips. I’m not sold on Phillips playing well enough to keep that spot and even if he does, how much confidence does anyone have that Phillips will be there all year?

Ryan Ludwick is a pretty good guy to slide into that spot and he’s only one year removed from hitting 26 bombs for the Reds. Ludwick’s power, combined with that park, that lineup, and the possibility of being in a good production spot on the lineup makes me like Ludwick’s prospects heading into 2014.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

The injuries are mounting. Even the aforementioned 26 HR season came in only 125 games. Actually, he hasn’t played even 140 games in a year since playing in 152 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 — the only time he reached that mark.

I’d bet on Ludwick to actually retire at the end of the year but if not, he’ll still be a free agent at season’s end. So, even if he plays, it will quite possibly be as a platoon guy and will more than likely be in a place that’s not as hitter-friendly as Cincinnati.

A.J. Pierzynski: Boston Red Sox

  • Why I like him in 2014

I’ve just got no real reason not to. He probably won’t hit as many homers in Boston, but batting towards the bottom of a very deep lineup should give A.J. Pierzynski plenty of RBI chances, and I can see him putting a hole through a few spots on the Green Monster throughout the year.

Catcher isn’t a thin position, but it is one with some younger guys that you’re banking on consistent progression, and that doesn’t always happen. A.J. may not have a terribly high ceiling, but you can count on production from him, and that’s important at a position like catcher.

He also has a career .322/.328/.424 slash line at Fenway Park — without a home run, which helps be believe that he’ll work the Monster even more.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

Call me crazy, but I think this is the last we’ll see of A.J.

I’m a big fan of his work in the broadcast booth/studio and that’s something that he’s clearly building toward. Rather than possibly play for his fourth team in four seasons in 2015, I think he hangs it up and goes for a much easier job.

He may be the guy that fans love to hate, but I think the game will lose something when he hangs ’em up, even if he is good as a commentator.

Alfonso Soriano: New York Yankees

  • Why I like him in 2014

Plenty of Yankees to choose from here, but Alfonso Soriano actually gets the nod here in a landslide, at least compared to the other hitters. I don’t see Derek Jeter or Ichiro Suzuki being especially effective this season, and I think Carlos Beltran still has a few good years left.

That leaves Fonzie. While his batting average hasn’t been anything to brag about, he has slugged 68 homers and driven in 209 runs over the last two seasons, even finding time to steal 18 in 2014. 18!

The Yankee lineup is a little lefty-heavy, so Soriano batting somewhere in the four or five range is pretty safe. Don’t discount the possibility of another 30 HR/100 RBI season.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

Even if he gets it, Soriano is pretty clearly a player at the end of his career. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and with some players from the farm system coming up, it’s really hard to see Fonzie back in the Bronx next year. Maybe he signs somewhere else, but like Ludwick, the situation won’t be anywhere near as ideal.

Chase Utley: Philadelphia Phillies

  • Why I like him in 2014

The best thing to like about Chase Utley heading into the year is that no real injury questions loom over him for what feels like the first time since 1983. While I won’t kid myself into thinking it means we’ll get a full year’s worth of games out of him, I don’t feel bad thinking we’ll get 120 or so.

The problem with Utley has never been ineffective play, just staying healthy and on the field. Not heading into Spring Training with an injury, it’s already a major plus.

Utley can find a way to get on base with the best of them. He can still hit, draw a walk, and when push comes to shove, he’ll trade a bruise for a base. The Phillies lineup isn’t as potent as it was five years ago, but Citizen’s Bank Park is still made for left-handed power hitters like him. With 120 or more games, a 65 run, 15 homer, 65 RBI, 10 steal, .280 average is well within reason, and it’s hard to beat that from a second baseman that you won’t have to reach for early.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

With a big contract, it’s hard to see Utley getting moved to an American League team, and I think that’s what needs to happen for him to stay effective. The injuries have been a big part of his story for too long, and I don’t think he can get through another year of turning double plays with his back turned to a sliding runner, and making up ground for an immobile Ryan Howard on the right side of the Philly infield.

Utley needs to be in a place where he can spend some time as a DH, and that’s not Philly. I think we’ll see more of him after 2014, but he won’t be much of a fantasy player.

Bartolo Colon: New York Mets

  • Why I like him in 2014

Bartolo Colon is a strike-thrower. There’s nothing terribly complicated about his game, which is why strikeouts are rare from him, but his style should work well in the National League, especially in the hitting parks of the NL East.

As long as Colon is healthy in 2014, he has a pretty secure spot in the rotation, and that certainly helps.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

Much like Ibanez, the age is going to eventually become a factor. Also, with Noah Syndergaard and a returning Matt Harvey likely on the Mets 2015 roster, it’s easy to see Colon getting phased out.

Jason Grilli: Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Why I like him in 2014

It’s really not that complicated. Jason Grilli has done exceptionally well with the Pirates over the last three seasons, and there’s no real reason to think that that will change any time soon.

The Pirates are a good team for a closer because they win a lot of games, but they’re generally pretty close contests. It’s part of the reason that he saved 33 games in 2013, despite missing some substantial time. I don’t know that the Pirates will repeat their 2013 success, but I don’t expect a nosedive, either.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

First off, Grilli will be 38 on opening day in 2015. That alone would be a reason to hesitate. But…

He’s also in the last year of his contract, and a younger, cheaper, similarly effective Mark Melancon is waiting in the wings. The Bucs saw in 2013 that Melancon can close when called upon, and I’m guessing he’ll be the guy in 2015.

Grilli could move on, of course, but his numbers in Pittsburgh are significantly better than any other place he’s been. Given their success with guys like A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, I’m not seeing that as a coincidence.

Tim Hudson: San Francisco Giants

  • Why I like him in 2014

Professional pride, for one. I just really don’t see Tim Hudson letting a freak injury like the one he suffered last year effectively end his career.

Also, you can’t help but notice that he’s had a WHIP of 1.167 over the last four seasons and in San Francisco, that’s going to play extremely well. If runner’s aren’t getting on base at a big rate, you’re just not going to allow many runs. That logic is true anywhere, but especially in a place where homers and other XBH come hard.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

Hudson will turn 40 in 2015 and he’s had a few injury-riddled seasons in a row now.

It’s pretty much a common thing that age and injuries combined are awfully hard to deal with. We’ll see Huddy in 2015, but I see 2014 as the end of his fantasy relevance, at least as an every day guy.

John Lackey: Boston Red Sox

  • Why I like him in 2014

This probably isn’t the most statistically sound argument, but after watching them last year, I think this Red Sox team is going to fight like nothing else to defend their title.

With that, I think that John Lackey is going to push very hard to be at his best in 2014 and while I don’t think he’ll be as good this year as he was last, I do think he’ll be a guy you want on your team, at least in some starts.

It also doesn’t hurt that this is Lackey’s contract year and if he wants one more big payday, he’ll have to be on his game.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

A few reasons.

One, I don’t think they’ll repeat in 2014 so I don’t think the same motivation will be there in 2015.

Tw0, even if they do repeat or even come close, he’ll be heading into 2015 at 36, coming off of two extended seasons from the playoff runs.

Three, Lackey has already been dealing with injuries over the last few years. That’s not something that gets better as you get closer to 40.

Four, Again this is his contract year. If he gets a big deal after this year, some of the edge is off, and I think Lackey in particular needs that edge. If he doesn’t get a big deal, he’s probably going to be retired, or at least on the verge.

Wandy Rodriguez: Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Why I like him in 2014

Sidenote, if I may. Wandy Rodriguez is the opposite of Chase Utley. Utley seems like he’s been around since Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California, while I was pretty surprised to see that Wandy is now 35. Perception is a funny thing.

Now, why do I like him in 2014? Well, Wandy’s been a good pitcher over each of the last two seasons. He did miss most of 2013, but he was good when out there.

I like pitchers who throw strikes, and that’s what he does, but not at the complete expense of strikeouts.

Also, like Grilli, now that he’s back and healed up, I just like the Pirates track record when it comes to guys like this.

  • Why I don’t like him after 2014

Like Grilli, he’s probably looking at his Pittsburgh swan song this year.

He’s not quite as old as some of the other guys on the list, but also not quite as accomplished. I don’t like the uncertainty that looms. It’s too easy to see Rodriguez retiring, or going to a far worse situation to some team that overpays him. He’ll keep the WHIP down for you in 2014 and should deliver a decent win total (though that’s really tough to project), but his pitches will get progressively more hittable into 2015.

Also, like everyone else here, the injuries eventually mount. Give him the urgency of a contract year, and I see Wandy pitching well. Take that away after this season, and I’m nowhere near as confident.