I present you with my fantasy baseball tips and tricks: veterans to keep your eye on in 2017.
Veterans commonly go overlooked in fantasy baseball. They are assumed to have undergone regression from the previous year. Multiple veterans disproved this theory last year, including David Ortiz, Justin Verlander and Adrian Beltre.
Ortiz astounded baseball fans around the world with arguably his best season since 2005. His 38 home runs and 127 RBIs helped crown the Boston Red Sox as the best offensive team in baseball. The 40-year-old finished sixth in AL MVP voting and received his seventh Silver Slugger award to validate him as an elite player.
Verlander underwent some struggles in 2014, sporting a 4.54 ERA and a career low strikeout rate of 6.9. He hoped for a bounce-back season in 2015, but only made 20 starts after being sidelined by a tricep injury.
Many people lost faith in the former Cy Young winner and MVP. However, the 33-year-old proved everyone wrong. He finished with 16 wins, a 3.04 ERA and a league high 254 strikeouts. Verlander finished second in the AL Cy Young voting and 17th in AL MVP voting.
The first ballot Hall-of-Famer, Adrian Beltre, also entered 2016 with some question marks. He was a 37-year-old who had failed to play 150 games and hit 20 home runs since 2013. The four-time Silver Slugger went to work and batted .300 with 32 home runs and 104 RBIs. Beltre subsequently finishing seventh in AL MVP voting.
Many veterans slide down the board on draft day, but the following old-timers should stay on your radar come 2017.
The following players are all 34 years of age or above and are being selected out of the top 100 players according to fantasypros.com average draft positions (ADP’s). Players are listed in order of ADP, with their age, position, team and composite 2017 projections following.
Albert Pujols, 37, First Base, Los Angeles Angels (128)
- 536 AB, 72 R, 29 HR, 91 RBI, .265 AVG, .792 OPS
Pujols has dealt with nagging foot injuries over the course of his last four seasons. However, he has still managed to play 150 or more games in his last three. The 37-year-old remains a staple of power and production. He will continue to bat behind Mike Trout, making him a 100-plus RBI threat until he retires. Injuries will remain threat to his success, but his ADP makes him well worth the risk.
Adrian Gonzalez, 34, First Base, Los Angeles Dodgers (146)
- 539 AB, 69 R, 22 HR, 84 RBI, .273, .790 OPS
Gonzalez has remained one of the most consistent big leaguers of the last decade. He has amassed 90 or more RBIs in 10 consecutive seasons. The 34-year-old will continue to be a cornerstone of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup that is bound to improve. Young stars Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig will continue to grow.
The first overall pick in 2000 has a career .290 batting average, which makes him a very safe selection as your first basemen in 2017.
Carlos Beltran, 39, Outfield, Houston Astros, (190)
- 499 AB, 62 R, 21 HR, 72 RBI, .271 AVG, .783 OPS
Beltran will jump from one AL West team to another, leaving the Texas Rangers to join the Houston Astros. The 39-year-old had begun to fall off in 2014, although his 2016 campaign began a resurgence. Beltran smashed 29 home runs, which is something he hadn’t done since 2012.
If Beltran can find consistent at bats as an Astro, then there is no reason that he cannot be a top-20 outfielder once again in 2017.
Victor Martinez, 38, Designated Hitter, Detroit Tigers (192)
- 514 AB, 61 R, 21 HR, 76 RBI, .278 AVG, .785 OPS
The former catcher has found a home at designated hitter. He has been able to manage at least 150 games in three of his last four seasons. Martinez’s career batting average of .301 makes him a great late-round pick who can boost your average.
If the Detroit Tigers are successful this season, it will be in part because of this 38-year-old’s production. He has amounted 100 RBIs five times in his career, which is not out of the realm of possibility if he can stay healthy once again.
Yadier Molina, 34, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals (195)
- 434 AB, 43 R, 7 HR, 48 RBI, .286 AVG, .733 OPS
Molina is a future Hall-of-Famer because of his glove. However, he batted .307 last season while finishing 23rd in NL MVP voting. Molina may be a 34-year-old catcher who hasn’t surpassed 150 games played ever in his career, but he remains one of the safest choices you can make late in the draft. The Cardinals will only go as far as Molina, Carpenter and Piscotty will take them.
Starting and Relief Pitchers
Rich Hill, 37, Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (122)
- 132 IP, 10 W, 3.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 143 K
Hill inked a three-year, $48 million deal after finishing 2016 with 110.1 innings pitched, 12 wins, a 2.12 ERA and 129 K’s. The 37-year-old will remain a staple in the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation for years to come. If he were to come close to 200 innings, he is a sure-fire top-25 starting pitcher. Hill is a late bloomer in the MLB and commonly sliding in drafts. However, should not be overlooked due to his incredible strikeout upside.
John Lackey, 38, Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (142)
- 182 IP, 11 W, 3.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 162 K
The Chicago Cubs veteran remains a consistent innings eater, reaching the 180-innings mark in four straight seasons. The 38-year-old will continue to pitch every five days for the Cubbies come 2017, which makes him extremely valuable in all formats. He is sure to win games, strike batters out and have respectable ratios.
J.A. Happ, 34, Starting Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays (169)
- 183 IP, 12 W, 3.93 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 156 K
Happ came out of nowhere in 2016 to win 20 games and finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Regression may be in store for the veteran. However, if he can match his 195-inning total last season, he is sure to be a solid fantasy pitcher in 2017. The 34-year-old will be pitching for an intriguing Blue Jays team that is sure to compete in the AL East as they have for the last few seasons.
Francisco Rodriguez, 35, Relief Pitcher, Detroit Tigers (143)
- 58 IP, 35 SV, 3.57 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 55 K
Once arguably the greatest closer in the game, Rodriguez has since fallen off that pedestal. His strikeouts per nine innings has dropped in consecutive seasons since 2013, which is a bit disconcerting. However, the Detroit closer will continue to have the opportunity to be a premier closer in this league, as the Tigers will be a contender in 2017.
Fernando Rodney, 39, Relief Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks (241)
- 57 IP, 23 SV, 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 60 K
Rodney will make the move to the desert in 2017 and become the Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer to start the season. Rodney still has plenty of strikeout potential, and will be saving games for a Diamondbacks team that is sure to be better than they were in 2016. Rodney will make for a great late round pick for teams that need some cheap saves.