Key Stats: Merry Christmas from all of us at Fantasy Baseball 365. David Ortiz was not on too many teams wish lists as an aging designated hitter, but neither was Rudolph as a reindeer with a different nose. This one trick reindeer has it down to a science. In the last three years Ortiz has averaged 29 home runs and 99 RBI. He is not showing signs of getting radically worse even in his mid 30s. Last year was the second best season in terms of batting average of his career.
Skeptics Say: Ortiz was in a contract year last season, and probably thought he was playing for another multi-year deal. That didn’t pan out as Ortiz’s best option was to accept salary arbitration. Perhaps that serves as motivation not just to the Red Sox, but to all thirty teams, to prove that he can still hit. Or perhaps, Ortiz and his body have a reality check and this year we start to see his numbers creep down.
Peer Comparison: Among qualifying players, Ortiz was the tenth oldest hitter in baseball at age 35. The players that were older than him all dropped off significantly in 2011. They were Chipper Jones, Raul Ibanez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Jamey Carroll, Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vladimir Guerrero. That’s not to say that these players weren’t worth owing in fantasy baseball because several of these players were worth it. It is basically a foregone conclusion though that Ortiz will fall off the map just a little bit now. Here’s a look at what some of these players did from age 35 to age 36 in terms of Yahoo rank.
Jones – Ranked 11 at age 35; Ranked 45 at age 36
Ibanez – Ranked 99 at age 35; Ranked 59 at age 36
Ichiro – Ranked 38 at age 35; Ranked 68 at age 36
Jeter – Ranked 16 at age 35; Ranked 89 at age 36
Abreu – Ranked 35 at age 35; Ranked 84 at age 36
Guerrero – Ranked 26 at age 35; Ranked 210 at age 36
Now the database doesn’t have information on Matsui, Damon, or Carroll, but Carroll was worthless every year of his career and Matusi and Damon both went down statistically between their age 35 and age 36 seasons. Matsui lost 7 home runs and some RBI while Damon lost 16 home runs. The only player here that bucked the trend of going downhill at age 36 was Ibanez who also had a contract to play for in that season.
Lineup Outlook: Even with a new manager it’s hard to see Ortiz hitting anywhere but fifth in the order. Adrian Gonzalez has to hit third in the order and hitting Ortiz back to back with another lefty wouldn’t be wise. With a new manager the Red Sox could turn to Dustin Pedroia at clean up instead of Kevin Youkilis. In 25 games batting fourth last year, Pedroia hit .347 with a .979 OPS. Youk would then likely turn into the team’s number two hitter with Jacoby Ellsbury and his 30/30 ability at the top of the order.
Projection: The Red Sox lineup is still the best in baseball on paper. Carl Crawford can’t get worse and the team had 18 more runs than the next highest scoring team in the league. Even as Ortiz’s body starts to crumble, the guys around him in their primes will boost him enough to be considered a top 100 pick.
77 R 26 HR 91 RBI 0 SB .274 AVG .345 OBP .894 OPS