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June 27, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Veterans With Value

by Craig Goldstein

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It’s only natural to have a bias toward younger players and prospects in dynasty formats. After all, they are the gift that keeps on giving, especially in leagues that don’t have limits on how long one can be kept. We know going into the season that older players are undervalued, and yet we still can’t help ourselves from reaching when it comes to the promising young ones.

So, we know there’s value to be had all over the place in the over-30 range, as guys are still exiting their primes, but what about the 35-plus crowd. The names below won’t surprise you, as you have to be pretty good to hold value into your mid-30s, but they are a subset of players that I think can hold their value for the next 2-3 seasons, which is reason enough to hold onto/target them in dynasty leagues.

Jayson Werth – OF – Washington Nationals
While 2014 hasn’t been a banner year thus far, Werth has been healthy—an issue that’s plagued him in the past. For dynasty league players, this should be a vital factor when determining Werth’s value, and it’s one that seems to be gotten wrong all too often. Werth missed 81 games in 2012 and another 32 in 2013, but he had three straight years of 150-plus from 2009-2011. So while he’s been snake-bitten in his career when it comes to health, he can certainly put together a complete season.

Moreover, even when unhealthy, he’s productive. Since his first season mediocrity in DC, Werth has posted OPS’ of 827 (81 games) and 931 (129 games). In a 20-team dynasty league of mine, Werth was recently traded straight up for Jimmy Nelson. I’m well aware that one trade is the ultimate small sample size, but that even one person would consider this deal makes me comfortable with the idea that Werth is not being valued correctly in dynasty leagues. He’s still productive enough to be a OF2 when he’s right, and he’ll even contribute on the basepaths here and there.

Aramis Ramirez – 3B – Milwaukee Brewers
Another injury-plagued veteran, Ramirez is a productive force when healthy, producing wRC+s of 134, 141, 132 over the last three seasons, and is on his way to replicating that success with a 128 figure thus far in 2014. At 36 years old, he’s one of the more productive players in a crop of third baseman that has been fairly deplorable. He’s dropped his penchant for walking in 2014, as his 4.1 percent would represent his lowest total since 2000, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since he’s so effective at putting the bat on the ball and hitting for average.

He’s not a complete player, as his defense is an issue and his struggle to stay on the field is quite real. Still, with the lackluster production from the position in general (.253/.317/.394 league average slash line), Ramirez is something of an elite option there. Knocking him down a few pegs for age-related reasons is more than fair, but drop him too far and you’ll only be hurting yourself.

David Ortiz – DH – Boston Red Sox
I know, I know. How could it possibly be that someone this popular is underrated? Well, with owners in dynasty leagues always looking toward the future, Ortiz has been eminently acquirable for years now. It started with his two troubling seasons, in which he struggled out of the gate, only to turn it on in the second half of the year.

Ever since then it appears that people seem to think his value will just expire at any given moment. With this year’s .253/.354/.480 slash line representing his worst since 2009, there might be a bit of a buy-low window here. He’s still connected for 18 home runs on the year and is suffering from a .250 BABIP, which you might think isn’t that bad since he doesn’t move so fast, but he has a career BABIP of .303. He’s striking out a bit more than normal, but his walk rates are holding steady. There’s not much to worry about with Ortiz, as long as he wants to play, so if someone is panicking about the batting average, step in and steal him.

Marlon Byrd – OF – Philadelphia Phillies
We’ve all had a lot of fun with Byrd. His first and last name are different animals, respectively. That’s fun. He was so damn bad with Boston/Chicago that one year, remember? It basically defines him. So much so that when Byrd put together the best season of his career last year, we all dismissed it as a fluke, applauded Sandy Alderson for turning a NRI into a prospect and moved on with our lives. Fun, fun, fun. But here’s the thing; Byrd had a career high in home runs at age 35 and that is weird. What’s weirder though is that we all assumed that Byrd was done after 2012 and couldn’t experience a revival like he had in 2013.

The honest answer is that he’s neither as bad as he was in 2012 nor as good as he was last year, as variance was likely rearing its ugly head. Instead, he’s likely the player his is this year (or a similar permutation): .266/.316/.478, good for a .267 TAv. Nothing special there, but certainly usable in deep dynasty leagues, even considering his lack of speed. As part of an increasingly decrepit Phillies lineup, many owners discount Byrd’s ability not only due to his own age, but due to the age and ineffectiveness of those around him. That leaves opportunity for the enterprising owner to step in, give up a C-grade prospect and augment his title run.

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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