7 Safe Veteran Players (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
All too common today is the ongoing want to draft the young, sexy player who possesses tremendous upside. We’ve all favored the unknown over the comfort of the known. Heck, I’ll probably reach for a younger guy myself at least once in each of my drafts.
That said, I feel we’re undervaluing the “old guys” as a result of an attraction to the shiny new toys. Finding safe and reliable veterans later in drafts is an overlooked strategy that can pay dividends in the standings. It’s time to pay some respect to these old dudes. It’s the least we can do since we aren’t paying a lot to roster them.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the players who offer a nice floor at their current ADP outside the top 100. I’ll mainly focus on those beyond their arbitration years and mostly in their 30s or close to it. Guys who can boost our squads while mitigating some risk from other picks that have an element of uncertainty.
Nick Markakis (OF – ATL)
Cal Ripken Jr. has long been retired, but the 35-year-old Markakis is the closest thing to a modern-day iron man as we’re going to see. Due to injury in 2012, he played 104 games for (coincidentally) Baltimore. That would be his career low, as he’s averaged over 158 games played in the other 12 years of his career. Last season saw his power numbers spike with increases in slugging %, hard contact %, and his ISO. Turner Field favors left-handed power, but that’s not why you draft Markakis, currently going off the board around pick 250. You take him because he’s as reliable as they come and because he’ll raise your team batting average by threatening the .300 mark like he does every year.
Miguel Cabrera (1B – DET)
Miggy is now 36 years old and will carry 1B eligibility in most leagues, but will serve as Detroit’s DH in 2019. Before the last two injury-shortened seasons, Cabrera was as reliable as they come, averaging a day off every two months like Markakis. As a result of those injuries, his power diminished. His current ADP around 165 makes him a much better value than Eric Hosmer a round earlier. In Cabrera, unlike Hosmer, we know that power is at least a possibility from the former annual Triple-Crown contender. At this point, it’s just a matter of health allowing him to return somewhat to form as a career .316 hitter with a .400 wOBA. If so –DHing should help — you’re committing mid-draft robbery.
Mike Moustakas (3B – MIL)
Every projection I’ve seen has Moose around 30 dingers and 90 RBIs with a .260-ish AVG. He’s also being drafted around the 140 mark. I’m sorry, 140? What in the world is going on here? Either people are slow to move him up their ranking since he signed with the Brewers, or I’m missing something. He’s also been very reliable outside of his 2016 campaign in which he only played 27 games for the Royals before tearing his ACL. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what a full season of Moustakas in Miller Park will look like. Even if he falls short of the projections above, I’m still labeling the 30-year-old as a safe vet at a great price.
Robinson Cano (2B – NYM)
By now, you’ve probably figured out that this article is largely made up of durable players. Cano missed half of last year due to his PED suspension, not injury. Before last year, he played in no fewer than an impressive 150 games in every season dating back to 2007. He returned to the Mariners’ lineup and didn’t take long to do his thing, finishing with a .303 AVG and a 136 wRC+. Moving back to the Big Apple should help along with a better surrounding lineup. With how quickly the keystone position thins out this season, it’s nice to know you can still grab Cano around the 120 range as the 12th 2B off the board. He may be 36 years old, but he’s still able to swing the bat.
Cole Hamels (SP – CHC)
There is a lot of buzz about how much a change of scenery helped Hamels, who was floundering in Texas before getting traded to the Cubs. I agree, but it’s important to remember that 2017 was just his second bad season. Aside from 2009, in which he was coming off what is still a career-high 227.1 innings plus a deep postseason run, 2017 represented his only other true blemish. With how discretionary starting pitchers are managed nowadays, getting a 200-strikeout pitcher is more useful than in the past. Over 10 seasons in which he has made at least 30 starts, Hamels has averaged 199 Ks per year. He’s a durable, reliable strikeout source being taken around the 150th pick. That’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Sean Doolittle (RP – WAS)
Doolittle is currently 32 years old with his ADP falling outside the top 100 and trending downward amid rumors that Washington is in the mix to sign Craig Kimbrel. That seems like a nice value for a stud who consistently outperforms his FIP and xFIP on a team that is still expected to contend for the NL East crown. As the only guy on this list who doesn’t fit the durable bill, he has had trouble staying healthy, but I’ve always been one to weigh skills over health concerns. If the last two years of a sub-0.90 WHIP aren’t enough, his impressive 36.8 K% last year was all the proof you needed that he’s able to pitch at an elite level. If he maintains the closer role for the Nats, he could finish as MLB’s top closer in 2019.
Jeurys Familia (RP – NYM)
Familia is a late-round guy who can contribute if your leagues accounts for holds. With his current ADP of 285, he may not even be drafted at all in some leagues. After hitting a rough patch in the middle of 2018, he straightened it out to become a solid trade chip for the Mets and a valuable setup guy for the A’s down the stretch. Last year’s 27.5 K% across both teams was above his career average and reminiscent of his 2015-2016 performances, when he notched 43 and 51 saves, respectively. Now back in New York, he’s an ideal late-round handcuff or $1 auction end-game piece to pair with Edwin Diaz. After all, it only takes one injury to make Familia the Mets’ closer again.