Bernie on the Scene: Age 35-Plus AL Hitters I want on My Team

Bernie on the Scene: Age 35-Plus AL Hitters I want on My Team

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I share my thoughts on American League hitters over the age of 35 whom I want on my fantasy teams. It is very obvious that in most aging hitters, bat speed becomes an issue. However, each of these hitters can help in fantasy, especially when the weather heats up.

 Jose Abreu 1B, Chicago White Sox, age 35

Without question, along with Tim Anderson, Abreu is a trusted leader in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse. He has the trust and respect of the players and the front office. A Cuban born player, Abreu has been a mentor for other Cuban and Hispanic players on the White Sox for years. Remarkably, in every full season since his arrival at the big league level in 2014, Abreu has driven in at least 100 runs. He has been an All Star three times.

This year, Abreu is not driving in the runs. There have been questions about possible declining bat speed and overall slowing down of his game. Critics have indicated that old age has suddenly caught up with Abreu. I won't argue that Abreu is the same hitter as in the past. His lack of production dictates changes in his mechanics or his natural gifts and abilities. But that being said, to me, he is still very dangerous. And I think much of the blame for Abreu's decline is the lack of production around him in the under-achieving White Sox lineup.

Abreu was once a feared hitter, but pitchers are

Today I share my thoughts on American League hitters over the age of 35 whom I want on my fantasy teams. It is very obvious that in most aging hitters, bat speed becomes an issue. However, each of these hitters can help in fantasy, especially when the weather heats up.

 Jose Abreu 1B, Chicago White Sox, age 35

Without question, along with Tim Anderson, Abreu is a trusted leader in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse. He has the trust and respect of the players and the front office. A Cuban born player, Abreu has been a mentor for other Cuban and Hispanic players on the White Sox for years. Remarkably, in every full season since his arrival at the big league level in 2014, Abreu has driven in at least 100 runs. He has been an All Star three times.

This year, Abreu is not driving in the runs. There have been questions about possible declining bat speed and overall slowing down of his game. Critics have indicated that old age has suddenly caught up with Abreu. I won't argue that Abreu is the same hitter as in the past. His lack of production dictates changes in his mechanics or his natural gifts and abilities. But that being said, to me, he is still very dangerous. And I think much of the blame for Abreu's decline is the lack of production around him in the under-achieving White Sox lineup.

Abreu was once a feared hitter, but pitchers are getting him to swing at pitches out of the zone or up in his eyes. High velocity, as well as wicked breaking balls telegraph the tardiness of his swing.

But — because he remains dangerous with a bat in his hand, I still want Abreu on my teams. I will spot him against pitchers who don't throw particularly hard or in parks with large outfield territory to cover. He can still drive the ball to the gaps. And he's still getting his share of doubles. Home runs, however, are more difficult for him.

Finally, the White Sox have been playing in horrible weather conditions. Cold, wet days and nights are not a friend to a big, 6-3, 235 pound hitter like Abreu. I think as the weather heats up, so will he. Buy with confidence of an uptick.

Miguel Cabrera,1B/DH, Detroit Tigers, age 39

A lock to enter the Hall of Fame, Cabrera can still hit. Make no mistake, he is a very dangerous guy with a bat in his hand. And he thrives with runners in scoring position. One can tell immediately if Cabrera's swing and mechanics are in tact just by watching where he hits the ball. When Cabrera is "on" his game, he drives the ball to center field, and the gaps to both sides. He is not a dead pull hitter. When he tries to pull the ball, he cheats himself.

I have seen a tad less bat speed, but few in the game today can crush a cookie like Cabrera. He clobbers pitcher's mistakes. Throw the ball anywhere near the heart of the plate and he'll find the barrel with no problem. He does, however, have some trouble if he is jammed.

Home runs may be less frequent now for the aging slugger. But he still has superb eyesight at the plate. He can track pitches very well, but the bat doesn't get through the ball quite as quickly. Overall, his eye-hand coordination is still very good. And he knows the strike zone cold. Just last week, Cabrera barked at the home plate umpire for missing a full-count pitch and calling him out. Cabrera was shown to be correct on replay.

Cabrera can still be trusted. Like Abreu, be careful where you deploy him. He murders fastball pitchers, regardless of velocity and even with a bit less bat speed. Why? He has made adjustments and starts his load earlier. Don't pass him up if you need his type of hitter.

Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Houston Astros, age 37

This year, Gurriel is struggling. But frankly, the Astros have not been driving on all cylinders yet as a team. I do think we will see vast improvement in Gurriel and his teammates going forward.

Gurriel was never much of a home run threat. In fact, his career high was 18 back in 2017. So don't roster Gurriel looking for a power source, even in his dangerous Astros lineup.

What Yuli should offer when he's on his game is very, very good contact at the plate. He puts the ball in play, and he is very capable of hitting the gaps in any part of any field. He will help most in leagues that have extra base hits and/or total bases as categories. He could return to being a "doubles" machine. Gurriel started his big league career at the age of 23. He has never made an All Star team. He's just a good player who is feeling the impact of aging.

So far this season, Gurriel just isn't the same hitter, but I'm not giving up. My main reason is the team for which he plays. I believe in the Astros lineup. I believe in the Astros hitters being able to heat up with the weather, score runs and win games. And that equation includes Yuli.

Michael Brantley, OF Houston Astros, age 35

I have said repeatedly that among the many big mistakes made by the Cleveland Indians front office was not giving Brantley the money he wanted. They let one of the greatest pure hitters in the game walk out the door. Winning teams can't do that.

In fantasy, I want Brantley on any team I manage. Why? He's a professional hit man. He can hit any pitcher with an almost perfect swing and a very measured approach at the plate. He's a bit off so far this year in most of the counting stats. But he'll get much better once the guys around him heat up. Brantley will get on base, score runs and drive in runs. And, he'll hit an occasional home run and steal an occasional base. All that at the age of 35.

Brantley has one of the sweetest left-handed swings I have ever scouted. He keeps his head in place, repeats his trigger and doesn't get fooled by any pitch in any pitcher's repertoire. He seems to know what pitch is coming, and he has the ability to foul off and waste the nastiest pitches among them.

The only slight issue I have ever seen with Brantley is a hole at the very top of the zone. He will swing and miss at the pitch, as long as the velocity is high — like 95 and above

Brantley is playing at a "young" 35, but there certainly could be decline on the horizon. The man has been hitting ropes now for parts of 14 seasons. Don't hesitate to trade for him.

Carlos Santana, 1B, Kansas City Royals, age 36

Of the players in this article, I am the least excited about Santana. In fact, I think he is this close to being finished as a player. But…Santana has a knack for heating up late in a season. That is my glimmer of hope for Santana.

He plays his home games in Kansas City, which has a huge outfield playground for Santana's line drive bat. If, however, he still has enough bat speed to get the barrel out front on high velocity pitches.

I have seen Santana start very slowly in cold weather parks. I have also seen him heat up as humidity and temperatures rise. And I do know that upon occasion, he can hit the ball out of the park.

Santana is not on a team scoring tons of runs. The team will need him to produce if they want to avoid the cellar. But to be fair, Royals prospects Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino are waiting in the wings to take his job. And it may not be too long until they accomplish their goals of making the big league club.

For now, Santana is hitting as a DH in the Royals lineup, and the change at first base is already in the works. How much he has left in his tank will be known by July. That will have given fantasy managers June to figure out if Santana is done.

In the last week or so, Santana has been more relevant in the Royals lineup. He is showing improvement. So to repeat, I am tepid on Santana. But I want to see if his summer success continues. If yes, then I'm in.

HEADING HOME:

One of my followers has done extensive studies on the baseballs made by MLB. This follower has indicated that as an astrophysicist, she has taken apart game balls for years. She told me that last year she found MLB did, indeed, use two different baseballs. She said MLB kept it a secret and that one ball was lighter than the other. I clearly believe her.

It seems pretty evident and obvious that MLB wants to reduce three true outcomes: home runs, strikeouts and bases on balls.

From the department of Now I've Seen It All: How important is fantasy sports? Well, Tommy Pham and Joc Pederson clearly had a dust up before their Reds vs. Giants game last Friday. Apparently, Pham slapped Pederson across the face during pregame workouts. The issue concerned a fantasy football league. Seriously? Seriously.

Yes, I think runs are increasing as the weather heats up. I do think batting averages will improve. But without a doubt, MLB has got to be worried sick about the horrible attendance figures they are seeing in noncompetitive franchise cities. And this year is worse than most.

Fans and fantasy players still like home runs. But pitchers know the ball is less lively. They know how to pitch sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero. They know to keep the ball down against right-handed power hitters and hope they pound the ball into the ground, hitting on top of the ball.

Washington Nationals starter Patrick Corbin was once a solid left-handed starter. He was rostered on plenty of fantasy teams. Through his first 10 starts, Corbin is 1-7 with a 6.30 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 50 innings.

If you were drafting today, who is the first pitcher you take?

Have we forgotten about J.D. Martinez? I don't hear buzz about him with the same passion I hear about Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez. But take a look at the numbers for J.D., and by the way, he is in his age 34 season. Remarkable.

Mookie Betts is on fire as I write this. A healthy Betts is fantasy gold. 

Another under the radar player IMO? Rafael Devers. All this guy does is hit. And he hits for power. He isn't a good defensive third baseman, but man can he hit.

I think Juan Soto is getting frustrated by the bases on balls. He has very little protection in the lineup, and we still haven't seen his great hitting ability. What we have seen is his tremendous eye at the plate and the selective nature of his approach. But fantasy owners are upset at where they took him in drafts.

Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman? Which one do you want THIS YEAR?

Yordan Alvarez hustles down the line as well as any player I have seen. For a big star with a booming bat, Alvarez gives 110 percent on every single play. I love to watch the guy on a baseball field.

Paul Goldschmidt might be having his best year ever. Certainly Nolan Arenado helps, but Goldy still can drive the ball out the park, hit for average and hit for power. He can lift a team and carry them on his back. But beware, I have seen Goldy when he cools off. And I think that will happen at one point this season. And it could go on for a couple of weeks.

Yes, Eric Hosmer is having a great year, but I would still try to move him as soon as possible if I'm the Padres. I don't think he can sustain this hitting. Even if he does, they have offensive holes to fill.

I have been bullish on new Guardians outfielder Oscar Gonzalez since I first saw him in 2021. Since my first looks, he has gained much greater pitch recognition, is more selective at the plate, and he is playing decent right field. He could be a consequential hitter.

Think of these starting pitchers:

Alek Manoah

Nestor Cortes

Joe Musgrove

Paul Blackburn

Miles Mikolas

Pablo Lopez

Triston McKenzie

Shane McClanahan

Sandy Alcantara

Eric Lauer

Tarik Skubal

Logan Gilbert

Kyle Wright

Framber Valdez

Carlos Carrasco

Maybe with the exception of Manoah and perhaps McClanahan, I don't think those names were on the early round charts of fantasy managers. And those pitchers, and many more like them, have allowed managers to fill their rosters with hitters first for up to four rounds in some cases.

There are plenty — plenty of really, really good fantasy pitchers. We all just have to get our share.

Not to forget:

Justin Verlander

Corbin Burnes

Kevin Gausman

Julio Urias

Max Scherzer

Walker Buehler

Adam Wainwright

Frankie Montas

Max Fried

Gerrit Cole

Zack Wheeler

Carlos Rodon

Merrill Kelly

Logan Webb

Shane Bieber

Aaron Nola

Yu Darvish

Chris Bassitt

Sean Manaea

Dylan Cease

Lucas Giolito

And what happened to Robbie Ray? Yikes! Sorry if I left some out, but pitching is so good, I could continue with my lists if I had the space.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

Thanks for reading my work at Forbes.com.

I'm in Baltimore this week to see the Mariners, Guardians and Orioles. I'll be tweeting from Camden Yards, one my most favorite parks in the game.

Have a great week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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