When drafting fantasy baseball squads, I pay a lot of attention to age. Maybe too much, but whether it is due to health issues or concerns over a potential decline in production, older players tend to be riskier investments. The problem is every year at least a handful of the guys purposely avoided prove me wrong and force me to question core draft day strategies. This season is no exception. So, who fits this description for 2016? Note that all of these players are at least 35-years old. Also note that I do not own any of these players.
David Ortiz - Retire? Really? Big Papi headlines this group, and for good reason. As of Saturday, Ortiz leads the Majors in both RBI (45) and OPS (1.126). And then there's the 12 homers through 43 games. In the Tout Wars Mixed Auction league, the 40-year-old was purchased for the modest price of $17. Not surprisingly, his owner, Bret Sayre, currently resides in first place.
Ben Zobrist - The Cubs signed Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million contract over the winter and has been well worth the price tag so far, boasting a .350/.454/.525 slash line with six homers, 31 RBI and 35 runs scored through 44 games. Zobrist's power days were thought to be long gone, but the 35-year-old is currently on pace to post his first 20-plus home run campaign since 2012. Oh, and Bret Sayre owns him too.
Rich Hill - I honestly thought little of Hill's impressive four starts to close out the 2015 season. Perhaps that was a mistake. I'm still skeptical as this is a pitcher who has not enjoyed an extended period of success in a starting role since 2007. On the other hand, there comes a time in every season when a hot start is no longer just a hot start. We're approaching that time, as the 36-year-old southpaw holds a 7-3 record to go along with a 2.18 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 rate through ten starts.
John Lackey - Five bucks was all it took to win Lackey's services in Mixed Auction Tout Wars this spring, and I found this a bit strange considering that the 37-year-old righty was coming off an exceptional 2015 campaign. But I guess my league mates were not too eager to own him, and he was nowhere near my target list. Well, all Lackey has done through nine starts is register a 3.38 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, good for fourth-best in the NL.
Santiago Casilla - Can this guy ever get any respect? Heading into this season, Casilla was largely viewed as a low-end #2/high-end #3 closer in mixed leagues despite notching 38 saves in 2015 while recording a sub-3.00 ERA. Crazy, right? And the worst part is for some reason, I bought into the consensus opinion, believing that the 35-year-old was bound to crash sooner or later. Apparently not, as we're at the one-third mark of the season and Casilla sports career-best numbers in almost every category. Go figure.
Carlos Beltran - OK, I lied about not owning any of these players, because I own Beltran in one league. OK, I own him in two leagues, including Tout Wars, where I shelled out two whole dollars to draft the former All-Star. As it turns out, Beltran leads my team in both home runs and RBI. I'm not naive, there's a good chance that I have already benefited from the best part of Beltran's season, and maybe a DL stint is right around the corner.
Or maybe not.