Dynasty Baseball

Struggling 30-Somethings: Five Quick Evaluations

Food comas. That feeling about an hour after you eat a big lunch during the work day where you get sleepy and lose focus. Reading about veteran players are akin to being affected by this plague. The lines begin to blur, head starts nodding, and suddenly you awaken twenty minutes later. That’s in stark contrast to breakout players and prospects, who are more like a mouthful of pop rocks on the Fourth of July. They’re more fun to read and, honestly, to write about. However, veterans are still an underrated aspect to dynasty squads, providing filling stats to support your a championship run. So let’s look at five older players who’ve started slowly in 2018 and see which hitters can rebound and which 30-somethings could be toast.

Kole Calhoun – .167/.195/.211, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 10 Runs, 2 SB in 118 plate appearances

First off, I was a bit surprised to see that Calhoun is 30 years old since it doesn’t feel like he’s been in the majors that long. However, crossing that decade threshold hasn’t been very kind to his performances thus far. He’s walking just one-third as frequently as his previous two seasons, and his strikeout rate has ballooned up to 28.0% (he was at 20.5% in 2017). And even though he’s still making hard contact, Calhoun’s started hitting a ton of worm-burners this year (56.8% grounders versus his career GB rate of 42.3%). The Angels have called up Jabari Blash recently, who has taken a couple starts away from Calhoun. There are a lot of concerning trends in his profile right now. Verdict: Moving On

Matt Carpenter – .163/.317/.316, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 12 Runs, 0 SB in 123 plate appearances

The ever-patient Carpenter has taken his approach to new level this season, but it remains to be seen if that’s a good level or not. He’s swinging at a career-low 32.2% of pitches, 2nd-lowest behind Joe Mauer among qualified hitters. While that’s been a boost to his already prolific walk rate, he’s also striking out a lot more than normal (26.8%, up from his career 18.4%). Carpenter’s contact rate has also been an issue this season, dropping over 11 percentage points from 2017. There are also legitimate concerns about his shoulder injury lingering and he was having back trouble in spring training. However, he’s still ripping baseballs when he makes contact (5.8% soft contact) and he hasn’t had any luck with balls in play (.197 BABIP). Unless something crops up about his health, I still have some faith, but the check engine light is on. Verdict: Holding On

Dexter Fowler – .161/.278/.321, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 18 Runs, 2 SB in 133 plate appearances

When you hear regression, it’s easy to assume that it’s a negative draw on production or skills. After looking at Fowler’s batting profile, it’s clear that he’s going to regress, but in a good way. Instead of using the term regression (to the mean), I believe saying a player is due for normalization paints a more clear picture of what is being forecast. In Fowler’s case, his terrible .153 BABIP isn’t supported at all by his batted ball data. Therefore, Fowler’s batting average should regress (normalize) back to his career .265 mark over time. His plate discipline, hard hit data, and contact rates are all within his usual bounds, so expect a return of the classic high runs, useful power and speed version of Dexter Fowler once his luck corrects itself. Verdict: Holding On

Jason Kipnis – .184/.258/.272, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 17 Runs, 0 SB in 152 plate appearances

Kipnis was victimized by the injury bug last year and although he’s healthier in 2018, we’re still seeing a bit of a lag in the areas of power and speed. Even though he jacked six homers in spring training, the depreciating power last year (career-worst 22.1% soft contact) has continued into this campaign (19.4%). Kipnis also hasn’t attempted a steal yet this year. That could be an effort to keep him healthy, but losing his wheels significantly depresses his fantasy value. Though his walks are up a tick, so are his strikeouts (23.0% versus his 19.0% k-rate in ’17). In a deepening 2B talent pool, Kipnis is trending in the wrong direction. Until he starts running again, I don’t want to own any shares. Verdict: Moving On

Ian Kinsler – .198/.271/.267, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 10 Runs, 3 SB in 96 plate appearances

Starting the season on the DL, Kinsler hasn’t returned to the lineup with much gusto so far. That’s somewhat surprised considering he’s still making contact at an elite level. His 88.8% contact rate would rank 4th among qualified hitters, sitting behind Ketel Marte, Jose Ramirez, and DJ LeMahieu. The reason behind his low batting average that his hits are being caught. His .211 BABIP should normalize back towards his .286 lifetime mark, bumping up his batting average. Nearing the age of 36, Kinsler’s power is beginning to wane a bit, as he’s registering his lowest hard-hit rate in his career (23.4%). However, the veteran is still active on the base paths. And hitting leadoff in front of an ample Angels lineup will continue to see plenty of run production come Kinsler’s way. If you’re an owner contending this year and need middle infield help, now’s the time to buy Kinsler. Verdict: Holding On

So are you still awake after reading about boring veteran players? Ok, grab some coffee to perk yourself back up. People like to be the first to predict when the career cliff arrives for older players, but you can miss some decent value buys when dismissing these players. Plenty of people have predicted that players like Nelson Cruz or Adrian Beltre will disappear, but they’re still valuable. It’s a tough practice to know when a respected player will lose his fantasy productivity. Hopefully Kipnis and Calhoun prove me wrong and turn their campaigns around. I’d rather see people succeed than fail. Maybe some of these players will help you succeed in your quest for a title.

The Author

Tom Werner

Tom Werner

Tom has been playing fantasy sports since 2000 when his Boy Scout troop started a fantasy football league. He's been addicted ever since, as it combines his love of statistics, competition, and sports. Fantasy baseball emerged as his favorite; Tom's in three dynasty baseball leagues and wants to help you win yours (except you Charles).


  1. Alex
    May 9, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    What is your general vibe on Justin Upton?

  2. May 9, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Upton will keep doing his Upton thing, which is striking out plenty and being streaky, but ending up hitting .250-.260 with 30 HRs and 90-100 RBI with a handful of steals by season’s end. He was awful the last two weeks in April, but has hit .343 with 4 HRs and 12 RBI since May 1st. All of the numbers under the hood fall in line with his career norms. Until we see trends like a drop in hard hit data or plate discipline, I see a stable power source in a solid lineup that will frustrate occasionally.

  3. Mike C
    May 13, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Goldschmidt. :(?

    • May 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      Goldy’s having quite the rough start to the season no doubt. And it’s not necessarily due to luck either (.302 BABIP). His 31% strikeout rate is way worse than his career mark of 22.4%, his 71.2% contact rate is down six points, and his 22.2% soft contact rate would obliterate his career worst. There’s been some commentary about his struggles against high-velocity fastballs, but after looking at his results, his batting average against each type of pitch (fastball, off-speed, breaking) are down across the board. He’s always been a patient hitter but pitchers are getting first-pitch strikes on him at a very high rate (70% vs. 59% last year). When’s Goldy goes down in the count 0-1, he’s hitting .176 versus the .275 clip when he goes ahead in the count 1-0, so maybe he needs to swing at some of those first-pitch strikes more often.

      To sum up, his patience and GB/FB ratio looks within his norm, but Goldy’s getting behind in counts, whiffing more, and making weaker contact. Goldschmidt does have an impeccable track record though and it’s just been a month and a half, but he’s providing some valid concerns right now. I think it’d be folly to sell at this juncture unless someone’s willing to pay preseason prices, but that’s unlikely. I think you have to either wait it out if you believe in him or, if you don’t, wait for a hot streak and flip him when his value rises again. Personally, I’d be willing to take the risk and buy Goldy if the price is reduced enough.

  4. May 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    What’s going on with Calhoun is so dramatically different from his past few seasons that I suspect he’s hurt. Plate discipline doesn’t just fall off a cliff at 30. It’s either that or he’s actively trying to “Brett Phillips” it and be “an RBI guy” -more aggressive and going for contact. That just doesn’t make much sense though, given his history and the fact that the line up has gotten better around him, which should put less pressure on him to be that guy, if anything.

    • May 14, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      An injury’s definitely plausible too. I mean, Calhoun looks like a completely different player. He doesn’t even have an extra base hit since Opening Day. I agree, it doesn’t make sense for him to change his approach to the extreme that we’re seeing. If the aggression is based on Calhoun attempting to swing his way out of his slump (or for another reason), it’s clearly not working so far.

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