Tuesday, February 12, 2013

8 Geezers over 35 who still have their Giddy Up

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper led a rookie class in 2012 that could seriously go down as one of the best of all-time. It just seemed like everywhere you turned, someone barely old enough to drive a car was leading his team to a win. Throw them into an under-30 group of players that already included studs like Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and many, many others, and the future of baseball, both real and fantasy, appears to be in phenomenal shape.

But there’s plenty of room in baseball for an old dog, and that’s what we’re going to take a look at here.

When we first decided to make this one of our countdown topics, two of the first names that jumped into my head were David Ortiz and Carlos Beltran. The problem is that I don’t trust that either will play more than 120 games in any given season. Alfonso Soriano was also one of the last men out. While I love his power numbers, remember that his 2012 batting average was as high as it was in any year since 2008. He came in at .262. Also, like Ortiz and Beltran, injuries are a concern.

Before I go on, the cutoff for qualifying on this list is that the player must turn 35 by June 30, 2013, or halfway through the season. So, the age you see listed will be how old he will be on that day. Get it? Got it?

Good! Let’s get to it!

1. Roy Halladay (36) — Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
The injury bug hit Doc in 2012, but he pitched healthy enough for me to believe that he still has quite a bit left in the tank. There’s a lot about Roy Halladay that I like, but if I had to pick one thing that makes him stand out, it’s this. He doesn’t walk anybody. Heck, as bad as 2012 was, his WHIP was still a respectable 1.22.

Doc led his league in strikeout-to-walk ratio every year from 2008-2011, and had the best BB:9 split between 2009-2011. Even from a pitcher in his mid-30?s, it’s going to take more than one up-and-down, injury plagued year to give up on him. Given the extraordinary shape that Halladay keeps himself in, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t bounce back in 2013, when health won’t be a concern.

2. Paul Konerko  (37) — First Baseman, Chicago White Sox
Injuries were a slight concern for Paul Konerko in 2012. Still, for a few reasons, I am not terribly concerned.
  1. He doesn’t play a particularly grueling position.
  2. In the American League, Konerko can always be moved to DH, where he’s played 35 or more games in each of the last two seasons.
  3. Konerko has played in 144 or more games in each of the last four seasons.
While we’re on that subject, let’s take a look at what he’s done since 2009.

75 runs, 31 homers, 95 RBI, all while hitting .297 over those seasons. I don’t see anything that tells me that he can’t come right around all of those numbers again in 2012.

3. Marco Scutaro (37) — Second Baseman, San Francisco Giants

I’ve read a few articles from people who expect the Giants to regress in 2013. The obvious response is that if you don’t think they’ll win the World Series, they’ll regress. But looking beyond that, those arguments usually will say something like this. “Marco Scutaro hit .362 with the Giants in 2012. Scutaro is not a .362 hitter.” As a Giants fan, I’d point out that they were in first place before landing Marco Scutaro. As a fantasy owner/writer, I’d have to concede that that’s true, but not before making a few points.
  • Scutaro hit .299 in 2011, and his total average in 2012 was .306. So, while he may not be a .362 hitter, you can look for him to be around .300, if not even a little better. Part of that is because…
  • While AT&T Park is a tough place for power hitters, it is a fine place for hitters like Scutaro. He rarely strikes out, and when he does make contact with the ball, the outfielders are frequently playing back to cut off the big gaps. So, line drives and bloopers that would be caught in many stadiums fall in for hits.
Angel Pagan had a great year with the Giants in 2012 and like Scutaro, has a game made for that home park. So, that should amount to plenty of RBI chances. Once Scutaro is on base, run producers like Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence will be up to drive Scutaro in. Scutaro is the kind of player that can be strong for a few more years.

4. Torii Hunter (37) — Outfielder, Detroit Tigers

On a personal note, more than any player in baseball, seeing that Torii Hunter is in his late-30?s makes me feel very old. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Spiderman.

I shared this story when Hunter signed with the Tigers, but a friend of mine pointed out that Hunter’s 2012 season might have had some smoke and mirrors to it, as he was sandwiched between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. My reply then was the same as it is now. That may be true, but being between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera (with Prince Fielder next) isn’t going to hurt anyone’s numbers.
Hunter’s counted stats are as reliable as they come in the game. You’re looking at a guy who will likely score around 80 runs, hit 20 homers, while driving in about 85. The average can be a little spotty, but with the Triple Crown winner hitting right behind him, he’ll see a lot of fastballs. That can not only drive the 20 homers and 85 RBI up, but it should put him at about .290, if not better. Hitting in front of Pujols, he hit .313, and I could see that happening again, easily.

He did miss some time last year, but injuries aren’t a real concern at this point. Hunter can still get it done for your fantasy team.

5. Hiroki Kuroda (38) — Pitcher, New York Yankees

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to use W-L record to value a pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda would be a good poster-boy for your argument. Despite an ordinary .500 career winning percentage, he’s never had an ERA above 3.76, and never had had a WHIP above 1.22, and even that’s rounding up a little bit.
Kuroda is consistently around the plate and while he’s not a classic “strikeout pitcher,” his totals there won’t drain your team. As for his age, all I can say is this. In 2012, Kuroda set a career high in wins (16), strikeouts (167), innings pitched (219.2), while notching his second best ERA (3.32), and third best WHIP (1.165). If Kuroda’s regressing, he’s got a funny way of showing it. He’s been remarkably consistent in his time in the Majoe Leagues, and I’d look for more of the same in 2013.

6. Ryan Vogelsong (35) — Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

Just for fun, I’d like to show you how Ryan Vogelsong compares to teammates Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain over the last two years, but without knowing which stats belong to which Giant. Don’t scroll down below the numbers until you’re ready to see the answers.
Pitcher 1413293823.
Pitcher 2369.1272973.051.2437.22.41
Pitcher 3441283722.841.
Okay, here we go.

Pitcher 1 was Bumgarner, Pitcher 2 was Vogelsong, Pitcher 3 was Cain.

Now, I am not saying that Vogelsong is a better pitcher, and their ages certainly come into play if you’re talking about keeper/dynasty leagues. But you’re going to get Vogey much later in snake drafts, and much cheaper in auctions. He does fall short of Cain and Bumgarner, but not by much, and those are both strong fantasy arms.

Like Kuroda, Vogelsong’s stuff isn’t going to get significantly worse with age, at least not at 35. He misses a lot of bats, but also knows how to deaden the ball and pitch to his defense. If you thought 2011 was a fluke, that’s fine. But thinking that both 2011 and 2012 were flukes is a bit more out there.

He won’t rack up the innings of Bumgarner or Cain, but that only means he’ll stay fresh. The Giants have a bullpen that can protect leads for him, too. Look for another rock solid year from Vogelsong in 2013.

7. Aramis Ramirez (35) — Third Baseman, Milwaukee Brewers

The youngest player on this list, Aramis Ramirez will turn 35 just before the cutoff date. The numbers for Ramirez going back to 2004 are quite staggering. He’s averaged 79 runs 28 homers and 97 RBI per season. Those numbers were even dragged down by 2009 when he hit .317, but only complimented that with 46 runs, 15 homers, and 65 RBI. He also only played 82 games.

Since then, he’s been a machine, and I don’t see one reason why that won’t continue in 2013. Miller Park is a fantastic hitter’s park, and with Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks, and Jonathan Lucroy around him in the lineup, Ramirez will have plenty of protection to bolster his numbers.

Ramirez can absolutely rake. He’s done it for so long that it’s clearly not a fluke, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue in 2013, and even beyond that.

8. Derek Jeter (39) & Mariano Rivera (43) — Shortstop & Closer, New York Yankees

Okay, I cheated a little bit and went with nine guys, but Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera can’t really be separated. Both have been cornerstones of the Yankees for nearly two decades. Both are surefire first ballot Hall of Famers. Both finished 2012 being taken off of the field. Both will come back strong in 2013.

We’ll start with Jeter. His injury would scare me a lot more if hitting for power was a big part of his game. It would also spook me if he still relied on steals. But while he can hit the ball out and can steal a base, neither are a big part of his game. What is a big part of Jeter’s game is getting hits, and he got more of those in 2012 than any player in baseball.

The designated hitter is also a factor here. Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez are all gone, while Alex Rodriguez will miss a good portion of the season. Kevin Youkilis will likely be used primarily as a third baseman until the return of A-Rod. So, in the early portion of the year, when Jeter will theoretically be working his injury out, he’ll have the DH option.

Lastly, Jeter is great at drawing walks. While that’s not usually a factor in fantasy baseball, it will get him on base a lot. With the likes of Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and even Youkilis right behind him, that will translate to a lot of runs scored.

Now, as for Rivera. By the time opening day rolls around, he will have had almost a full year to heal. As if we didn’t know it before, Rafael Soriano signing with the Nationals cements the 2013 closer job as Rivera’s. What makes me so confident that Rivera can bounce back is that he’s never been a pitcher aided by great complexity, so I am not worried about his pitches losing effectiveness.

Rivera has gotten here on the cutter, and pretty much the cutter alone. Nobody has figured out how to consistently hit it yet. An injury, even as bad as that one was, doesn’t make me believe that anyone will learn to hit that pitch.

Lastly, both Jeter and Rivera are phenomenal competitors. Neither have anything left to prove and I’d imagine if they felt they couldn’t contribute, one or both would have retired in the offseason. I don’t see either guy going out that way. That determination will help fantasy owners everywhere.

We’re continuing our countdown to our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit:
13 Dollar Players
12 Bargain Bin Outfielders
11 Pitchers You Shouldn’t Touch with a 60’6? Pole
10 Spot Starters Ready to Jump to the Next Level
9 Players Who Give You a Complete Lineup
Check out other great articles at Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.
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