Hitter Discussions: Age-33 And Older

Be it basic redraft leagues or the most hardcore of dynasty formats, a player or prospect’s age is an important part of evaluation. I’m not exactly breaking new ground by saying this of course, but I know sometimes I get more excited over a young player producing rather than someone five or six years their senior putting up similar numbers. I suspect I’m not alone in that, and while I don’t think I’ll be drafting nothing but older players, there’s no denying a lot of guys age-33 and older have been enjoying strong seasons. We’ll take a look at a handful of the hitters that have produced this year, and one that hasn’t, while also looking ahead to next season. Rather than look at obvious candidates like David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and the like, I’ll look at a few names a bit further down the list.

Ben Zobrist, age-34 in 2016
Despite the defense showing signs of aging, the only offensive dip we’ve seen from Zorilla so far has been a decrease in the running game. After nabbing at least 10 steals from 2009 through 2014, he currently sits at just two steals on six attempts. His power dipped a bit in 2013 and 2014, but Zobrist has bopped a dozen homers this season, which is probably about what we can expect next year. Currently averaging 275 feet per fly ball via Baseball Heatmaps, that number is in line with the 274 mark last season and the 275 average from 2013. For those of you in on-base percentage leagues, this season is the first time Zobrist has posted more walks than strikeouts in a season. The free-agent-to-be should get plenty of interest on the market, and if he goes to the right ballpark, he should continue to be a solid source of rate stats. A big thing working against him is that next year he’ll lose the all important shortstop eligibility. You can still plug him in at second or in the outfield — and he’s only a couple starts from third base eligibility — but using Zobrist as my primary SS is something Ill miss dearly.

Curtis Granderson, age-35 in 2016
For the eighth time in nine season the outfielder has belted at least 20 home runs. He’s compiled a comfortable .254/.363/.442 line this season, though he’s still shown his normal vulnerability against southpaws. Still, as a platoon bat it doesn’t get much better than him as he’s blasted right-handed pitchers with a .347 wOBA since 2012, good for 41st best rate in the league among qualified hitters. Similar to Zobrist, Granderson is drawing walks at a career best 13.7 percent rate. In addition to the walks, he’s hit 30 doubles thus far, his best season total since 2007. Using total bases as a proxy for offensive contributions, Granderson’s 242 total bases rate 49th most in baseball this year. With Lucas Duda no longer doing a poor impression of an outfielder, the only real competition for playing time to Granderson is Michael Cuddyer, who will be playing his age-37 season in 2016. If anything, I’d expect a platoon situation in right field with Cuddyer getting occasional starts at first base. I don’t see anything about Granderson’s game that he can’t repeat next year, outside of perhaps a few points less of batting average.

Jayson Werth, age-37 in 2016
Injuries and a slow start have wreaked havoc on Werth’s seasonal numbers, but he’s been on a tear lately. He’s hit .262/.354/.536 with six home runs in September. His .286 BABIP this month doesn’t indicate anything too out of the ordinary, though six of his 22 hits this month aren’t included in BABIP after all. Still, after a brutal opening to 2015, it’s nice to see Werth prove his, um, worth, a bit near the end of the season. With Span set to be a free agent, I’m counting on Michael Taylor taking over center field responsibilities, leaving Werth to roam left field. I can see Werth’s valuing being down due to his rough 2015 campaign, and I’ll be targeting him in the later rounds or when the dollars get tight.

Victor Martinez, age-37 in 2016
Somewhat opposite of Werth, V-Mart started off the season’s opening months decent — though likely a far cry from justifying his draft price — however his numbers have cratered in the second half. An overly simple glance at his first half versus second half splits show a .313 wOBA in the first half then a .257 wOBA after the All-Star break. Martinez has hit almost exclusively cleanup, third or fifth in the lineup (all excellent RBI chance spots) but he has just 62 RBIs in 471 plate appearances. With Miguel Cabrera and his .437 on-base percentage in front of Martinez, no doubt the low ribbie count has miffed more than a few fantasy owners. Martinez’s walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up, compared to both his career and the past three season averages. His tidy 6.2 percent swinging strike rate is still better than the 9.7 percent non-pitcher league average, as is his 87 percent contact rate against the 79.2 percent league average rate, but the quality of contact is way down for V-Mart. His 278 foot fly ball average this year is way off from his 298 average last season, plus his Soft% and Hard% contact rates are merely league average. There’s a lot trending in the wrong direction for Martinez here, and his value is limited more by being strictly UTIL eligible. I’ll be avoiding him in drafts next year unless he falls very far.

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