One of my longtime rules of fantasy baseball (and this one is shared by many) is to avoid older hitters. David Ortiz? Never drafted him (often and including this season to my detriment), Albert Pujols? Nope. Robinson Cano? Again, my bad this season, but still I’m not drafting him. Ben Zobrist? Just can’t do it. I know three out of the four guys I just mentioned are having great seasons thus far, but let’s see how they look in August, shall we? We shall, since August is coming whether we want it to or not; how’s that for ominous?
Thing is I just don’t want to take the chance of injury or decline. As I get older, and though I’m no athlete, it just takes longer to recover. Recover from injuries, running or long walks even, the few weights I do lift, and mainly, hangovers. I keep telling myself I’m one more bad hangover (which at this point is five or six beers and home by 11:00 PM and still takes two days to feel right again) from giving it up.
But good beer is so, so good. Just not at the ballpark for $10 a 12 ounce. As such when I go see my Cubs play the Cardinals in a couple weeks I’m bringing in a bottle of water, refilling it as often as I like in the many fountains, and eating hot dogs and nachos until my heart’s content. You know who also makes my heart’s content? Brandon Phillips. (Well, no, he doesn’t but I didn’t have a good transition there and that one did the trick. Or it didn’t. You decide!) But he’s an old guy and you don’t own them; you just said this. I know, but to be clear, I won’t draft these guys; nor will I trade for them. What I will do is pick them up off of waivers/free agent wire and plug them into my lineup.
Old man Brandon Phillips, aged 34 (just checked his birth date, dang it I’m only a few months older than him), who in the pre-season I hoped was traded as I drafted Jose Peraza everywhere and subsequently dropped him everywhere after the first week, is hitting again. He was good for so many seasons, even a 30/32 season in 2007, but the last few have been more meh, bottoming out in 2014 with an eight homer, two steal, .678 OPS campaign following that up with a 2015 where he attained 12/23 but a lack of extra base hits led to a poor .723 OPS. This season has been a return to form in some ways. Six homers, three steals and a sparkly .835 OPS with five of those HRs coming in the last two weeks. I know you’ll say, well a lot of good telling me this now, but he’s still only 65% owned in Yahoo and 68% owned in ESPN; those numbers are too low to let him hang out there for too long.
Old man Mike Napoli, also 34, also younger than me, has been on fire the last two weeks with three home runs and a very, very nice .989 OPS. He is striking out way too much at 35% and not walking at all a 7.3% clip, which are both not in line with his career averages of 26.7% K-rate and 12.3% walk rate. Looks like those should fall back in line and he’s getting playing time on the Indians, so go get him if you need some 1B thump. He’s owned in just 23% of Yahoo leagues and 15% of ESPN leagues (I assume now that Razzball Commenter Leagues are 15% of ESPN Leagues, which sounds about right as Razzball Commenter Leagues Rule!).
Last of the old men is Ryan Howard. He’s 36, (Yes! He’s older than me) and he has eight home runs on the season with a poor OPS, but wait, over the last two weeks he has four of those HRs. Play him at home versus a bad pitcher or on the road in Colorado or Milwaukee. He’s a spot starter at best but can be effective if used in the right situations (that’s exactly what my Resume says. Weird, right? I don’t want to talk myself up too much. Like the scene in Trainspotting (that I know Napoli, Howard and Phillips have all seen cause we’re in the same age group and all) when Spud has the job interview and Mark is giving him a little speed so he seems like he wants the job but not enough that they’ll actually give it to him)). Only in deeper OPS leagues is he an option, but he can still be usable.
A younger man to touch on for OPS leagues is Cincinnati OF Adam Duvall. An 11th round pick in 2010 by the Giants out of the University of Louisville, Duvall only qualifies at OF but can give Joey Votto the occasional day off at 1B and if Votto goes down it would appear the Reds would slide Duvall right in (not that Duvall does a lot of sliding, his next steal in the majors will be his first and his minor league season high is eight).
He’s gone in my OPS leagues but still only owned in 5% of Yahoo and 6% of ESPN leagues. He’s hit four home runs with a .919 OPS over the past two weeks, is playing every day, and should be owned in all leagues that value power (which is most leagues). Acquired by the Reds in the Mike Leake trade last season, he has minor league seasons of 30, 17, 27, and 26 Home Runs and an OPS above .800 in all those seasons except for one. So far in the majors he’s averaging a home run every six games or one every 18 Plate Appearances, and golly do I love when something good appears on my plate. Like fried chicken, or pizza, or, anything that tastes good really. Those of who have read my past columns know I’m not picky. Well, only when it comes to beer.
So Duvall is a power guy not an average guy, which probably explains his low ownership. Or people don’t like the Reds; that could be it, or his name, or the cut of his jib, which would be strange; he looks normal enough(LINK) to me to trust him for fantasy purposes.
At the major league level since 2014 he’s played in 28, 27 and 29 games and his K% was 26%, 36.1% and this season is 30.7%. That’s not good; his minor league K rates were consistently around 20%, so one would figure as he gets more playing time and used to major league pitchers that will lower. He will never walk a lot with a BB% around 7-8% in the minors and below 6% in the majors. OPS keeper leaguers are probably all over him but he’s worth trying to get if they are sleeping on him.
That’s all for me party people; on this fine Saturday I hope you get to do what you want to do, keep in keepin’ on, and ask any questions or throw some comments at me below.