Don’t Knock the Old Timers

A lot of fantasy managers focus on keeper leagues, and all those talented players under 30 are hot commodities. Who doesn’t like to have their top keepers locked up for five or more years, assuming no majors injuries? I’d certainly drool over a portfolio that includes Correa, Harper, Rizzo, and Syndergaard. That’s a “set it and forget it” kind of keeper decision. I’ll see you in 2025, when I have to actually think about them again.

However, all too often I find fantasy players taking that kind of high valuation on youth and applying it to redraft leagues. It’s not just a recency bias when it comes to a young guy breaking out. Two players could have very similar stats from the previous season, but the preference is usually for the younger guy. When this happens, there’s profit potential for those who are willing to go a bit older on their roster. I never have a problem with drafting veterans, in any format. I’ll grant you that Manny Machado over Adrian Beltre and Bryce Harper over Nelson Cruz make perfect sense for keeper leagues. But regarding 3-year average stats for 5×5, the older guys have been the better buy. Cruz even beat Harper in 2016 value; Beltre was just 11 spots behind Machado.

With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some aged stars who may not get as much love come draft day, but that makes them good targets to maximize your profit at the table. I’ll also list some younger guys these veterans outperformed in 2016, based on default 5×5 rankings.

Albert Pujols

He’ll be 37 for the 2017 season. After an injury-shortened 2013, he’s bounced a bit up and down in production (28-40 HR, .244-.272 BA). However, in each of those seasons, he’s been worth $20 or more. Perhaps even more important, his AB total has been above 590 for the three years. His contact rate is still elite, and his HR/FB stays above the league average. We’ve been worried about his health, and if you got burned in 2013 I can understand your reluctance to commit to someone this old. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect a .260, 25 HR season from him in 2017 if he can net 500+ AB. If he reaches nearly 600 AB again, and if he gets a little luck, a .270, 30+ HR year is fully possible.

Young Players Outperformed in 2016: Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu, Chris Davis, Brandon Belt

Curtis Granderson

He still walks a lot, his contact rate has been better in the last three years compared to his career lows in 2012-13, and his HR/FB and FB% have been strong the last two seasons. He’s 36 and playing in a big home stadium, but he still finds ways to hit home runs. A poor batting average is his worst feature at this advanced age, but plenty of other hitters have low averages with high home run counts, and they’re still valued. Some projections are already cutting his AB and HR, but for 2017 there’s no need to do so.

Young Players Outperformed in 2016: Marcell Ozuna, Joc Pederson, Nomar Mazara, Michael Saunders

Victor Martinez

The batting average hiccup from 2015 is a blip. Though he may not hit .300 again, I have faith he can maintain at least a .280 average, if not .290. His power hasn’t been consistent; he proved that his 2014 spike was repeatable in 2016. You may have to split the difference between his HR/FB of 15-16% in those years and the many seasons of 7%. But even a rate closer to the league average can still net 20 homers. His line drive rate is still solid, and though his contact is down from his prime, it’s still better than many sluggers. Playing DH will keep him in the lineup and help him net 500+ AB.

Young Players Outperformed in 2016: Kole Calhoun, Maikel Franco, Eugenio Suarez

Carlos Beltran

The best thing for Beltran is staying in a DH role as much as he can. At least after the Yankees, he ended up on another AL team. His walk rate has dipped recently, and his batting average spikes are BABIP dependent. His power production has been a bit up and down, but it seems safe to project 20 HR with 500 AB. Playing on the Astros, a contender, means he should net good run and RBI totals as well.

Young Players Outperformed in 2016: Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Adam Eaton

Matt Holliday

This one is a harder sell for me. First, I haven’t been a fan of Holliday for a few seasons. Second, of all the players covered, he’s had the hardest time staying healthy and accumulating at bats. He’s 37 this year, but the Yankees will get him a lot of DH time, so a resurgence in AB and production could occur. It seems 25 HR is within reach with enough playing time, but the rest of his game is less spectacular at this point. For his outperformed guys, due to low AB totals, I opted for 3-year average instead of 2016. Bear in mind his higher risk compared to others on this list, but I’m sure he’ll prove me wrong and have an amazing 2017.

Young Players Outperformed in 3-year average: Kevin Pillar, Kevin Kiermaier, Kolten Wong

John Lackey

I focused on hitters for this list, but let’s not forget the pitchers. Would it surprise you to learn that in 3-year averages, Lackey is the 20th best SP? It shocked me, and I even have him on my sleeper list. He posted his best K/9 of his career in 2016, and even if it makes sense to expect regression, his walk rate is also solid. His IP were a bit lower than one would like in 2016, but he’s still reliable enough to get solid results. Even with a recency bias due to the Cubs winning it all, I feel Lackey’s going too late in drafts, so mine that profit.

Young Players Outperformed in 2016: Julio Teheran, Jake Odorizzi, Cole Hamels


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Kevin Jebens

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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.