Every year it seems that baseball is getting younger and younger. Prospects all over baseball are proving to be more than ready for the show.
But what about the guys that have put in their time and then some? Veterans seem to have never been more undervalued (e.g. the free agent market), but they are getting their due here. We will take a close look at the best players over 35 years old.
The Spanish Conquistadors searched years for the the fountain of youth in Latin America. It seems it was in Seattle the whole time.
Nelson Cruz has mashed ever since arriving in the Pacific Northwest. In three seasons, he has hit 126 home runs, averaging 42 home runs per season. He has also driven in 317 RBIs with the Mariners, proving to be an elite run producer in his late 30s.
Cruz will be 38 years old in July and shows no signs of slowing down. With a deep Mariners roster around him, Cruz should continue to produce. He is still one of the elite power hitters in the game, proving that he can still be productive in the twilight of his career.
It seems that the Mariners are onto something. Even though Robinson Cano struggled in his first two seasons in Seattle (by his standards), his mid 30s have been plenty productive.
He has averaged 24 home runs and 90 RBIs in his four seasons in Seattle and boasts a .295 batting average. Cano has also earned three All-Star appearances in four seasons in Seattle, proving to be a force in the Mariners lineup.
Now at age 35, Cano is well on his way to cementing himself as one of the better second basemen in baseball history. He continues to hit for solid power and average, and has played a good second base since signing with the Mariners.
If he continues to drink from Seattle’s fountain of youth, there is no telling how much longer he can be productive.
Many were weary of signing an aged slugger like Edwin Encarnacion last offseason. However, all the 35-year-old did last season was mash.
In his first season with the Indians, Encarnacion hit 38 home runs and drove in 107 RBIs. While he did only hit .258 (his lowest since 2010), he still proved to be an elite power hitter for the Tribe. But with Encarnacion’s track record, his power should remain well into his late 30s.
Encarnacion has been an elite power hitter since arriving in Toronto, but his 30s have been impressive. He has averaged 38 home runs and 109 RBIs since turning 30 in 2013.
Age certainly hasn’t been a factor for Encarnacion. He was a late bloomer, not finding consistency at the plate until his age-29 season. But with his elite power and proven track record, his age shouldn’t catch up to him anytime soon.
While Albert Pujols may have fallen a long way from being the best player in baseball, he is still a productive hitter. At 38 years old, that is almost as impressive as his younger achievements.
Last season, Pujols hit .241 while mashing 23 home runs and driving in 101 RBIs. Those are solid numbers for a player of Pujols’ age. He will look to improve on those numbers in 2018, although he will have Father Time to contend with, and Shohei Ohtani.
The 2017 season was the first in Pujols’ 17-year career that he was a below average hitter. His 81 OPS+ was well below average, as his lower half began to fail him last season.
Even so, Pujols still has a chance to be a productive player for the Angels. With a career .305 batting average and 614 home runs to his credit, “The Machine” could very well flip the switch in 2018.
As the oldest player on our list, 40-year-old Fernando Rodney proved to be a solid reliever last season for the Minnesota Twins. He went 5-4 with a 4.23 ERA for a surprisingly good Twins team, helping them to a Wild Card berth. While his surface numbers may not be that impressive, a deeper look reveals much more.
While pitching 55.1 innings last season, Rodney struck out 65 total batters. That was his second highest total since the 2014 season. He also limited batters to a 1.19 WHIP last season, his best mark since 2012.
As Rodney has aged, he has seemed to get better and better. And his numbers prove that to be true. While his ERA may have increased this past season, his WHIP and total strikeouts still bear him as one of the better relievers in the game.
And with baseball moving ever closer to the super bullpen, Rodney could stick around for a while. Don’t be surprised to see Rodney still making the trot from the pen to the mound for the next several years.
Feature image by Jae C. Hong/ Associated Press
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