Respect the Elders: Three Underowned 30-Somethings

Every year, it seems like there’s a handful of veteran players who go overlooked by fantasy owners. Part of it is likely that these 30-somethings do not excite you anymore. You’ve been scrolling past some of these names for a decade, if not longer. Your eyes simply skim through them on their quest to find that young sleeper who’s about to break out.

Another part of the the puzzle may be that no analysts write about these guys anymore. What would anyone possibly have to say at this point about a player we’ve all been watching since 2005? “He’s still here”? That’s no fun — at least, it’s far less fun than projecting the next breakout performer.

As someone who understands that life isn’t always fun, I hereby declare my intent to remind you that the following three players are worth owning, despite their relatively high ‘old and boring’ levels.

Shin-Soo Choo (17% Yahoo, 17.5% ESPN, 46% CBS, 92.1% Ottoneu)

I understand there might not be anything sexy about owning Choo these days. The guy does turn 35 next month, and spent most of last year struggling with injuries. However, the fact that he’s owned in about 17% of Yahoo/ESPN leagues is entirely unforgivable. Check out these numbers and tell me why he’s on your waiver wire.

  • 2017 (260 PA) – .262/.382/.430, 10 HR, 6 SB, 38 R, 32 RBI

With that tasty .382 on-base percentage, he’s not just a must-own, he’s a must-start in every OBP format. Actually, as of right now, Choo is the No. 19 OF in an OBP league I’m in.

Those of you who use batting average take a small hit, but I would still remind everyone that Choo spent the first five weeks of this season bouncing around the lineup, spending roughly equal time in the No. 2, 7 and 8 slots. Since May 9, he’s hit exclusively 1st or 2nd in the Rangers lineup, scoring 24 runs in those 31 games. His present value is certainly higher than his season-long counting stats make it look. In standard 5×5 leagues, he’s the No. 45 OF on the season, and No. 25 in the last 30 days.

As usual, Choo isn’t doing much except drawing walks against lefties (.217/.400/.283). However, it’s pretty easy to simply bench him whenever the Rangers face a lefty, and feast off his robust .274/.377/.470 slash against right-handers.

In short, I do not understand his ownership levels at all. He’s putting up strong individual numbers, and he hits at the top of the lineup in a tiny little bandbox of a ballpark. And he’s probably on your waiver wire.

Jed Lowrie (25% Yahoo, 48.7% ESPN, 50% CBS, 75.3% Ottoneu)

It’s easy to forget that Lowrie can be pretty good when he’s actually healthy. The 33-year-old is probably held together with duct tape and rubber bands at this point, seeing as he’s spent time on the disabled list in seven of his nine major-league seasons. Just in the last two years, he missed time with injuries to his right thumb, left quad, right shin and left foot. However, Lowrie has somehow managed to play 2 1/2 months of injury-free baseball this year, churning out an impressive batting line.

  • 2017 (284 PA) – .287/.359/.484, 8 HR, 43 R, 24 RBI

Even though he plays more of a premium position than Choo does, I’m more forgiving of Lowrie’s low ownership. His injury history is insane — he’s played 100 games just twice in his nine prior MLB seasons — and even when he’s on the field, he hasn’t been worth owning since 2013. It’s also worth being skeptical when a 33-year-old is posting arguably the best offensive season of his career.

Still, Lowrie isn’t doing anything that seems all that fluky either. He’s produced numbers close to this before, in his solid 2013 and his excellent but injury-shortened 2010, for example. These current numbers are unexpected, but they’re not without precedent. They’re not outliers.

He could easily hit the DL tomorrow. Or he could lose his power stroke, as he seems to do every other year or so. On the other hand, it’s nearly July and he’s hitting for power while flirting with a .300 AVG. He should not be available in 50-75% of standard leagues like he is. Go get him.

Jarrod Dyson (18% Yahoo, 16% ESPN, 42% CBS, 37.7% Ottoneu)

The Mariners made an interesting dice-roll this offseason, essentially employing a “three center fielders” strategy to cover the large outfield at Safeco. One of those three was Dyson, a 32-year-old defense-first player who had never been entrusted with a full-time starting job. An odd choice to slot in as your everyday left fielder, to say the least.

As it turned out, Leonys Martin scuffled so badly to start the season that he’s been in Triple-A since mid-April, Mitch Haniger got hurt, and Dyson stuck in the lineup largely because he was the last CF standing. Now, the Mariners are likely thankful that they were forced to give Dyson as long of a leash as they did.

I’m always hesitant with players like Dyson, who are getting their first full-time shot after a career of part-time jobs. You can’t just expand their partial-season production over a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Well, unless you’re Jarrod Dyson, who is basically doing exactly that.

I’m not saying that he’s a great hitter, because he isn’t, but he is 5th in the majors in steals, with 17. The top three players on the stolen-base list — Billy Hamilton, Trea Turner and Dee Gordon — are all nearly universally owned. Then, we reach the No. 4 player, Cameron Maybin. Like Dyson, Maybin is over 30 and doesn’t usually play a full season (although for Maybin it’s usually because of injuries). Let’s make a quick comparison.

  • Maybin (48% Yahoo, 45.6% ESPN, 52% CBS, 73.2% Ottoneu)
    • .270, 4 HR, 21 SB, 41 R, 14 RBI
  • Dyson (18% Yahoo, 16% ESPN, 42% CBS, 37.7% Ottoneu)
    • .244, 4 HR, 17 SB, 37 R, 20 RBI

Dyson comes out slightly ahead in R+RBI, they’re even in HR, and Maybin has small but noteworthy AVG and SB advantages. Don’t get me wrong, I too would rather own Maybin than Dyson, but not to the point where I would expect ownership rates approaching a 3:1 ratio.

We hoped you liked reading Respect the Elders: Three Underowned 30-Somethings by Scott Strandberg!

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Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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John Morgan
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John Morgan

Dyson was so bad for so long–he’s being highlighted now that he’s in the midst (or maybe at the end of) a hot streak. Two weeks ago or so he was hitting very close to .200. That logic greatly undermines many of these “guys to add” posts, which FanGraphs is crawling with. A fantasy owner is never going to get anywhere continuously chasing the guy who was just recently hot.

A better way to do this, and I know it takes way more time but all the same, is to identify who has the underlying skills to contribute and is facing favorable conditions upcoming. Choo, for instance, murders righties at home. He has four games at home before a 10 game road trip, one of those games is against a lefty, and two are against pretty good righties: Estrada and Stroman. Maybe three depending on what you make of Biagini.

Dig a little deeper and it’s not hard to see how and when Choo’s hot streak started. Texas faced Tampa May 29 and 30. The starting pitcher of May 29’s game, Erasmo Ramirez, had recorded a save the previous day–which sequence of closing then starting hasn’t been done in over 30 years. He was shaky and only pitched 2.1 innings. Andriese left the next game with injury after only pitching 1.2 innings.

Choo’s next home run came against an injured Koda Glover. He then hit a screamer off Scherzer. His last home run was off Dan Altavilla, a marginal righty reliever that has spent time in AAA this season and who has big-l(y?)eague flyball and home run problems.

I know that’s all anecdotal, but it supports the argument that Choo is not particularly fantasy relevant, is not facing a particularly favorable set of future games, and may only be in the midst or at the end of a hot streak.

Choo fattened on weak pitching and is now being endorsed right before his value is likely to drop precipitously. Prior to that stretch he contributed this: .248/.359/.386, 5 HR, 23, 21 RBI, 3 SB in 182 plate appearances. During: .295/.436/.541, 5 HR, 15 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB in 78 plate appearances. 14 of his next 20 opponents field a top ten pitching staff. Then it’s the All-Star Break.

I noticed you picked three names which, along with Mitch Moreland, top my Yahoo league’s list of free agents. Such fringe roster depth is going to be added and dropped all season. None are fixtures on a roster. And so if an owner wants to add someone for whatever reason–often to replace an injured player–it would be good to find someone likely to perform in the short term after being added. Just for S&G here’s an alternate list of players owned at a similar rate, but who I believe are more likely to contribute in the next two weeks to a month.

We can reverse engineer this a bit by seeing who the worst pitching staffs in baseball will be facing: Reds, Twins, Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Phillies and Braves are bottom seven by FIP. That’s a rough cutoff intuitively chosen. I don’t pretend to be employing a perfectly logical methodology. Such is possible, but not by me, today, in this sultry home office.

Cleveland faces a pretty ludicrous stretch of Orioles, Twins, Rangers, Tigers, home against San Diego, and then Tigers again. That’s … the sweetest plum. Add Wahoos. Lonnie Chisenhall is 4% owned. Bradley Zimmer is 14% owned. Brantley just hit the DL so both should play. That’s free money, right there.

Tampa gets the Reds, Orioles twice, plus five games against the Cubs and Pirates, before facing the Red Sox. Mallex Smith is 36% owned. Souza is 38% owned. Colby Rasmus, whose neckbeard creates too much wind resistance and therefore stops him from hitting lefties, is only 2% owned. Against righties, his Amish necktie like a sail unfurls to catch the slightest favorable breeze. By which I mean he’s good, but also, that I am an ass.

I am not trying to undermine anyone, just doing this while I drink my coffee and before rushing off to buy gifts for my wife. It’s pretty fun and not too time intensive. Better than just rude complaining … I think?

One more:

The Red Sox face the Twins and Rangers interspersed with the mediocre pitching staffs of the Angels and Royals. Moreland faces a real nursery row of garbage righties: Hammel, Kennedy, Meyer, JC Ramirez, Bridwell and Gibson. His IFFB% is down and his hard hit rate is at an all-time high. He’s a safe bet to contribute in four categories, fractured big toe be damned.

So that’s my spontaneous “guys to add” post. Will enjoy seeing how Chisenhall, Zimmer, Smith, Souza, Rasmus and Moreland fare against Choo, Lowrie and Dyson.

Thanks.

Matt
Member
Matt

Disagree with just about everything here.

Dyson was hitting .200 about a month ago, sure, but over his last 160 games, he’s running a solid .264 avg with 47 SB and 83 runs – and he’s even better if you can just play him against righties (with good contact rates regardless). He’s been doing that for about 6 years now, but has never gotten the chance to be the primary strong side platoon until this year (which seems to be continuing since he adds so much value on defense and baserunning). In today’s SB context, that’s a pretty valuable fantasy commodity.

Choo should be owned in any league that allows daily changes and you can take advantage of platoons. I’m not sure exactly how Choo stacks up regarding the disparity between good vs. mediocre pitchers, but you haven’t really presented any evidence that demonstrates he’s especially susceptible to only playing well against the league’s worst starters (I’d actually love to see some work on this in rotographis if any of the contributors want to tackle that project). His gb% is creeping up a bit, which is worrisome, but his contact rates and discipline numbers are just fine – so I think as long as he’s healthy I’d be glad to have him in my lineup, regardless of league depth.

If you’re going to provide long-winded, somewhat snarky commentary on posts, you should probably extend your sample sizes beyond the last few weeks or so – and look at actual examine batted ball profiles. You talk about underlying skills, but then reference recent matchups – I don’t think that word means what you think it means.