Do these OF Veterans Still Have Value?

I know a lot of fantasy managers play in keeper leagues, and it goes without saying that the young phenoms garner a lot of value. However, I feel a lot of managers don’t switch gears when they are preparing for their redraft leagues. Does Addison Russell have a bright future? You bet! But will he really reach his top-level in 2016, justifying his relatively strong ADP? No. With that in mind, I want to shine a light on some of the older outfielders who fall lower than their young counterparts. Granted that aging veterans have their own potential risks (injury, general decline), but given their cost, you’re more likely to net some profit. Let’s get started.

New York Yankees LogoCarlos Beltran

As a former first-round pick, Beltran has managed to still provide value while he declines. The first issue we must address is the obvious lack of full playing time. He’ll be 39 in 2016, and he’s been under 500 at bats the last two seasons. Maybe Beltran would get to play more DH on another team, but A-Rod is still manning that slot for now, so Beltran is stuck in the field, adding to his risk. If you can afford to take on a player with a projected 450 AB instead of 550, then Beltran will give you strong value. His contact rate has held steady for practically his entire career. A career low BABIP — partly due to an increased GB%, which was likely due to his elbow issues — was responsible for his BA hiccup in 2014. His hard hit rate has been above league average despite his age. He still walks at a good clip (8%, 9% the last two seasons), and though it’s below his career peak, it’s still better than many hitters. Even his power production is solid. His HR/FB is down from his career level (15%) and peak years (16-20%), but his last three seasons have been in the 11-13% range, and he still hits the same number of fly balls. He won’t steal bases anymore, but how many 39-year-olds do? His ADP is currently 319, or 21st round for a 15-team league. Even with an AB discount, I could see him hitting 20 HR with a .280 BA. It’s safer to project a bit less, but as an endgame pick, that’s still great value.

New York Mets LogoCurtis Granderson

Granderson doesn’t have the same risk as Beltran, because he has been healthy for four out of five seasons. However, his issue is his inability to hit lefties. It may be that 2015 was simply a bit of bad luck, hitting .183 against LHP, but for his career he’s only at .224, so there’s not much room to improve. It turns out he was above his career in 2013-14, hitting above .240 against lefties, but we can’t expect that to be the norm. The Mets will certainly keep his appearances against LHP to a minimum, so he’ll lose some appearances for that, but 500+ AB is still very reasonable. The reason you want Granderson is his power, and he has shown the ability to maintain 20+ home run power into his mid-thirties. In 2015 his HR/FB was in line with his career rate (14%) as he bounced back from a drop in 2014 to 10%. The drop was mitigated by increased FB%, and his career rate is 44%. I wouldn’t worry about a slight dip in 2015 to 42% — as long as HR/FB or FB% holds up, he’ll be fine, and if both cooperate at the same time, he has a shot at 30 HR. Granderson’s never been a boon to batting average, and his numbers are certainly BABIP dependent. In 2013 he certainly dealt with injuries, which could have affected his batting average. In 2012 and 2014 his BABIP was below the league average (and his career level), which helps explain the .227 and .232. That said, he’s unlikely to hit over .250 anyway, and with the BABIP swings, you have to be aware that it can happen. After two years of sub-70% contact rate, Granderson put up 74-75% in 2o14-15, and his walk rate is equal or better than his career level. He’ll keep hitting 20+ home runs and scoring runs. Maybe he’ll maintain around 10 stolen bases, which is gravy, and he adds a solid RBI total. His ADP of 173 is higher than Beltran, but he’s dropped as low as 235. I feel his potential for 30+ home runs is still strong enough that I’ll roll the dice in 2016.

Marlon Byrd

With an ADP of 448, there’s a good chance Byrd will be sitting in the FA pool when your league starts. He revamped himself in 2013 and has put up three solid years of HR/FB (15-17%) that are well above his previous career levels (8-11%). With three straight years of this production, the 25 HR power seems here to stay. The one red flag I’ll throw up is that his new power stroke also requires a stronger FB% than his career level, and 2015 saw his GB% rise and  FB% fall back to his career levels. His batting average has been all over the place, which may be cause for concern, as he has had a three-year drop from .290 to .264 to .247. A very high BABIP was responsible for the .290 mark, but it’s possible he can remain in the .250-.260 range moving forward. A 2016 of .255 with 23 homers would be great value as an endgame pick. What may affect his future value the most is where he ends up. As an aging outfielder, he’d benefit from some time at DH, both for the sake of avoiding injuries and earning general playing time. If he can’t maintain his higher FB%, then he’ll need a hitter’s park to stay above 20 HR. At the worst, he’d be one of the first names I’d pick up from the FA pool in case of injury. But he may warrant the final spot on your roster, especially if there’s any other risk in your OF. He simply has to find a home in order to guarantee solid at bats.

St Louis Cardinals LogoMatt Holliday

Another veteran, another injury concern. Actually, until 2015’s low AB total of 229, Holliday had been sturdy for three seasons, netting 500+ at bats from 2012-14. A quad injury could be a bit worrisome as we enter 2016, but there’s already been talk that the Cardinals may try him at first base. They didn’t push him into it during 2015 because he’d never played there before, but with a whole offseason and spring training to work on a new position, it’s certainly possible. Given that the Cards’ other options are both lefties, I could see a potential platoon for Holliday, at least fielding 1B against left-handed starters. Now, even though I’m willing to give a mulligan for the injured 2015, there’s some worry about a power decline. Even if you excuse his no-homer months due to limited at bats and injury issues, in his other months his HR/FB was only 9%. It creates a five-year downward trend, and that can’t be explained away. Even if he returns to 2014’s 11% as a new baseline, it’s more pedestrian than we’d like. Another cause for concern is the drop in BA to below .280 the last two seasons. Holliday has always been known as a strong BA guy, but now he’s edging closer to merely average. The 2014 average could perhaps be a little excused with a low (for him) BABIP and a low LD%. He reached .279 in 2015, and he rebounded in LD%, but I’m betting the leg injury and a small spike in GB% capped his performance. Was his second-worst GB% and worst FB% of his career due to the injury, or due to decline? Probably a bit of both. Some projections are assuming he’s now a .260 guy, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt if he starts the year healthy. His contact rate and walk rate have held up over time, and he still has a hard hit rate well above average. You can’t assume .295 and 25 HR is going to happen, but I wouldn’t shy away from .280 and 15+ HR, with a decent run and RBI total. For a guy with an ADP of 252, that’s not bad. Monitor his health in the spring, and if there are no indications of leg issues, he has stronger AB potential than Byrd and maybe Beltran.

Washington Nationals LogoJayson Werth

This guy killed me last year. One of Werth’s calling cards is his great batting eye and the ability to take walks, and I spent a lot on him in an OBP league. Turns out he gets injured and has his worst BB% in ten years. In fact, he’s only reached 500+ AB once in the past four years, so I should’ve known better. Werth simply can’t stay on the field for a full season, and that cap on at bats has to factor into how you value him. However, what has fantasy managers still taking the bait is a BA above .290 in four of the past six years, along with formerly good power that showed up as recently as 2013 (18% HR/FB). This offseason I’ve been harping on how a high BA is becoming rare, and when you pair it with 20+ home runs and 10 steals, it makes for a nice player. The problem is, Werth really can’t stay on the field long enough to accrue the counting stats. He dealt with a sore shoulder and then a wrist issue in 2015. In 2013 it was a hamstring issue, and in 2012 he broke a wrist. He did bounce back in September 2015, launching 7 HR and reminding us why he’s still relevant. Werth is not the oldest player on my list, but he’s not the youngest either. I do believe that he can provide value, as long as he’s not on the DL or fighting through an injury. My problem lies with his ADP. Even 296 feels a bit high to me, given he’s projected for the lowest number of at bats, because everyone knows he’ll miss time. I’m willing to take players who don’t reach 500 AB, but he’s lucky if he reaches 400. Unless he is your last active OF slot or on the bench, it’s too high a price to pay for him.

 

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.