Dynasty Deals: Best Hitters Over 35
In dynasty leagues by far one of my favorite things to do is to stockpile talent where my opponent isn’t looking for it. This strategy can be played out in many ways from researching and stashing a high ceiling prospect before he becomes mainstream to exploiting a classic dynasty league bias—player age.
Over the last five years I have witnessed countless owners in my own dynasty league decide they can’t win—they then go all in on the rebuilding process. Without fail the first part of their rebuild is trading older players who don’t fit their window of competing. Not unlike real baseball teams dynasty owners take their older talented players and cash them in for younger ones. These players can often be obtained for much less than their yearly value and can help you win your league this year.
Below are ten hitters who will be over 35 on opening day that I believe are great targets in all dynasty leagues. Next week I will be back with pitchers in the same age bracket. Enjoy!
David Ortiz-Entering his age 39 season: Ortiz is on track for a really fun 2014 as the ageless slugger chases the 500 home run mark. Ortiz who wears number 34 sits, you guessed it, 34 home runs away from reaching the mark. Last season Ortiz had abnormally low run totals, his lowest since 2002, but projects to rebound and hit close to 30 home runs again. In five or the last six seasons Ortiz has played in 135 plus games—age has not affected his ability to stay on the field. Buy him in all leagues since power is scarce and 39 year old hitters come cheap in dynasty.
Carlos Beltran-Entering his age 37 season: Last year did not go as expected for the Yankees new slugger. After signing a three-year 45M dollar deal last winter Beltran was only able to play in 109 games eventually succumbing to surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Beltran is expected to be ready to go for the start of the 2015 season and should see time as the regular right-fielder. Beltran should see most of his time in the fifth spot and will be a lock for 20 plus home runs and 80 plus RBI with a strong average. Beltran fell victim to a nasty .252 BABIP last year which brought is average way down even though his overall contact % rose. Expect for Beltran’s average to rebound as he continues to play out his contract and bolster his case for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Marlon Byrd-Entering his age 37 season: I really am shocked that I am writing about Marlon Byrd at the tail end of 2014. Like any rational person I wrote Marlon Byrd off for done after the 2010 season only for him to reemerge in 2013 and have a career year. Even as I wrote off 2013 as some sort of strange miracle he basically enjoyed the same success in 2014. Until Byrd moves out of Philly there is no reason not to own him, he bats fifth, hits for power, and stays on the field. Skepticism of his age and abilities runs amok in most dynasty leagues so he can be had for next to nothing.
Jimmy Rollins-Entering his age 36 season: J-Roll is not going to start batting .280 again but he went a long way to proving 2013 was a fluke by enjoying a great 2014. Rollins stayed in Philly long enough to get many team records and now will enjoy his swansong in LA on a team that should contend for the World Series. There is absolutely no reason to believe Rollins won’t be able to recreate his 2014 season even if he does decide to retire after 2015. One of Rollins’ greatest assets is his durability so don’t expect his age to catch up with him. This is the perfect guy to go for if you are contending and offensively challenged at shortstop.
Chase Utley-Entering his age 36 season: The biggest issue with Chase Utley last year wasn’t the usual knee issues causing him to miss games but rather his relative lack of power. After posting average fly ball distance of 287.6 ft in 2013 his distance fell to 270.8 ft last season. Utley played in 155 games, his most since 2009, and reported no real injuries but I suspect he had something wrong with him for most of the season causing the catastrophic drop in distance. The other culprit to his loss of 7 home runs may have been his rising LD% up 5.1% and falling FB% down 6.4%. With second base being so shallow he represents a low cost option with upside.
Victor Martinez-Entering his age 36 season: It doesn’t get much better than 2014 for Victor Martinez who had the best statistical season of his career at age 35. Martinez has always been able to hit for average but saw a career best 32 home runs largely due to him putting more balls in play than ever. The extra balls in play were caused by a career low 6.6 K% and a deep lineup that allowed him to see good pitches. While Martinez likely won’t hit as many homers in 2015 he could easily hit 25 and bat over .300 again. The Tigers were confident enough to give him a four-year deal this off-season—he will produce for the duration.
Adrian Beltre-Entering his age 36 season: I thought about leaving Beltre off of this list all-together because he is so talented that he defies age. Beltre at age 36 is still a lock to go in the first three rounds of any fantasy draft and his defense so good that there is no danger of him moving off third anytime soon. Beltre’s down numbers in 2014 were as much to do with the lack of support in his lineup as anything else. With Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo-Choo set to return he will have a much longer lineup to support him batting in the cleanup spot. At Beltre’s advanced age I still have has him as my fifth ranked dynasty third-baseman.
Adam LaRoche- Entering his age 35 season: The Chicago White Sox have enjoyed one heck of an off-season but one of their most underrated moves was signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal. Many people don’t realize but in nine out of the last ten seasons LaRoche has blasted at least 20 homers. LaRoche goes from hitting 26 homers in Nationals Park, the second stingiest home run park in baseball, to hitting in US Cellular which is 13th friendliest. The other perk to owning LaRoche is his excellent second half splits over his career, as you see below head to head league players need to rejoice.
1st Half- 825 G, .251 BA, 119 HR
2nd Half- 640 G, .281 BA, 124 HR
Matt Holliday- Entering his age 35 season: We won’t be mistaking this current version of Matt Holliday for his Colorado self but what we get from him is still borderline elite performance. Holliday is a lock to hit 20 homers but where he really shines is in OBP with a career mark of .385. The power is in decline but the Cardinals continue to bat Holliday in the third spot in the lineup with ample opportunity for R and RBI. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Holliday post another 100 RBI season over the next couple of years. The skill-set here is one that should erode gracefully.
Albert Pujols- Entering his age 35 season: The Machine had quite the renaissance last year after his injury shortened 2013 campaign that snapped his streak of twelve straight 30 home run seasons. Pujols was the number three hitter for an Angel’s offense that lead the league in runs scored with 773. Pujols may not eclipse 30 homers regularly anymore but he will be a huge offensive force at first for many years to come. Much was made of the Pujols decline but we have to keep in mind that he very rarely missed any games prior to that season. All-time greats like Pujols don’t operate with the same set of rules as the other mere mortals—maybe this is a gut call more than a stat judgment but I think he has at least one or two huge seasons left.