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MLB Top 10s: Best pitchers, position players age 35 and older

by | Baseball Writer
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Bartolo Colon is in total control at age 40. (USATSI)
Bartolo Colon is in total control at age 40. (USATSI)

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In the Eye On Baseball Top 10s, here's what we do: rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10s will always be informed by some angle or another. (Note that the absence of an angle is itself an angle!)

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who are the best position players and pitchers age 35 or older in 2014? Yes, last time out we devoted this space to the youngsters and their baggy pants, and now it's time to give the old guys equal time.

To re-state the self-explanatory criteria, these are hitters and hurlers who are, at this writing, 35 years of age or older and will, according to my dubious estimations, provide the most value in 2014 relative to the excluded remainder of that particular MLB demographic. As always, defense and base-running matter for position players. It's not about the bat only.

Notable exclusions? Mike Trout because he's too young. Boileryard Clarke because he's dead. Those who don't play baseball because they don't play baseball. And so on ...

Spoiler alerts! David Ortiz is present and accounted for! As is BartYOLO!

So let us now recite baseball names for purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at lolnobodycares@hotmail.jpg.

Batters
1. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Texas Rangers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Cliff Lee Beltre is currently on the 15-day DL, and while his once impeccable glove-work has necessarily slipped a bit, he's still a defensive asset at third base. As well, Beltre, since getting out of run-suppressing Safeco, has combined to hit .314/.359/.543 with 126 homers in 603 games.
Key Stats: 28 AB, 0 HR, .286 AVG, 4 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
2. David Ortiz, DH - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 2
Hiroki Kuroda The age-defying Big Papi just keeps on hitting. Since turning 35, Ortiz has batted .309/.398/.567 with 36 homers and 45 doubles per 162 games played. That's MVP-level production at any age.
Key Stats: 50 AB, 2 HR, .260 AVG, 8 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
3. Chase Utley, 2B - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
Kyle Lohse Health is always the thing with Utley. After missing almost half of 2012, however, he came back in 2013 and had an outstanding season at the plate. This season, he's been hitting like a house afire in the early going. If not for all those injuries, we'd be talking about a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Key Stats: 45 AB, 3 HR, .489 AVG, 10 RBI, 9 R, 0 SB
4. Carlos Beltran, RF - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 41
Bartolo Colon Beltran tallied 56 homers in two seasons in St. Louis and of course enjoyed a blistering 2013 playoffs. He'll likely enjoy hitting in Yankee Stadium and having the DH spot available to him to spell his legs on occasion.
Key Stats: 45 AB, 3 HR, .311 AVG, 8 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
5. Victor Martinez, DH - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 10
Tim Hudson Sign of a ballplayer who's aging well? When, at age 34 and coming off a lost season due to major knee surgery, you come back and hit .301/.355/.430 with 36 doubles in 159 games.
Key Stats: 35 AB, 2 HR, .286 AVG, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB
6. Aramis Ramirez, 3B - Milwaukee Brewers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 15
Mark Buehrle Ramirez just doesn't stop hitting. On a rate basis, the last three seasons have been the best of Ramirez's career from an offensive standpoint (134 OPS+ since 2011). Let the record show that he's off to another fine start in 2014. At this rate, he could stick around long enough to make a run at 400 homers.
Key Stats: 53 AB, 1 HR, .358 AVG, 11 RBI, 4 R, 1 SB
7. Derek Jeter, SS - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
R.A. Dickey Jeter remains a pronounced defensive liability, but let's recall that in 2012, his last healthy season, he led the majors in hits. Early indicators are that he'll produce this season at a high level relative to the standards of his position.
Key Stats: 35 AB, 0 HR, .286 AVG, 1 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
8. Torii Hunter, RF - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 51
John Lackey Torii Hunter since turning 35: 121 OPS+. Torii Hunter before turning 35: 109 OPS+. He's not much in the field or on the bases these days, but Hunter can still hit enough to justify his presence in a contending lineup.
Key Stats: 30 AB, 3 HR, .267 AVG, 9 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB
9. A.J. Pierzynski, C - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 17
A.J. Burnett Pierzynski's career can be characterized as "relentlessly consistent." He's never had a full-season OPS+ worse than 83 (not bad by catcher standards), and he ranks 19th on the all-time list in games caught. Known quantities at catcher are hard to come by, but Pierzynski has been one for the last decade-and-a-half.
Key Stats: 35 AB, 1 HR, .314 AVG, 4 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB
10. Jose Molina, C - Tampa Bay Rays
Koji Uehara No, Molina can't and has never been able to hit a lick, but he's one of the most gifted defensive catchers in baseball. That's what lands him on this list. For his career, he's cut down 38 percent of opposing would-be base-stealers versus a league average mark of 28 percent over that same span. What's really impressive about Molina, though, is his longstanding ability to frame pitches for strikes. In two seasons and change with the Rays, Molina has saved almost 50 runs over and above the average catcher with his ability to receive pitches at the margins of the strike zone. In other words, he's a difference-maker even when he's not hitting.
Key Stats: 15 AB, 0 HR, .067 AVG, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB
Pitchers
1. Cliff Lee, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 7
Cliff Lee The best command pitcher of this era is coming off a 2013 season in which he led the majors in K/BB ratio for the third time in his career. Since Lee's Cy Young season of 2008, he's logged a K/BB ratio of 6.15, which, suffice it to say, is simply stellar.
Key Stats: 18.0 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 5.5 ERA, 15 Ks, 1 BB
2. Hiroki Kuroda, SP - New York Yankees
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 56
Hiroki Kuroda Ruthless consistency, thy name is Hiroki Kuroda. In each of his six MLB seasons, he's posted a sub-4.00 ERA, and in five of those his K/BB ratio has exceeded 3.00. At age 39, Kuroda will almost certainly give the Yanks more of the same.
Key Stats: 18.2 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 3.86 ERA, 14 Ks, 4 BB
3. Kyle Lohse, SP - Milwaukee Brewers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 87
Kyle Lohse After getting healthy in St. Louis and swapping out four-seamers for sinkers, Lohse surged. Since 2011, he's posted an ERA of 3.19 across more than 600 innings. The early returns in 2014 are promising once again.
Key Stats: 20.2 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 3.05 ERA, 21 Ks, 7 BB
4. Bartolo Colon, SP - New York Mets
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 83
Bartolo Colon Thanks in part to improvement of and heavy reliance on his two-seamer, Colon has enjoyed an unlikely renaissance. In 2013, he made the All-Star team and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young balloting. In a related matter, Colon has been one of baseball's best control pitchers over the last two full seasons.
Key Stats: 18.0 IP, 1-2 W-L, 0 SV, 6.0 ERA, 12 Ks, 2 BB
5. Tim Hudson, SP - San Francisco Giants
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 75
Tim Hudson Is any current pitcher as adept as Hudson is at inducing weak contact? He owns a career groundball/fly-ball ratio of 2.50, and not many starters can match his recent knack for keeping the ball in the park.
Key Stats: 23.0 IP, 2-0 W-L, 0 SV, 2.35 ERA, 16 Ks, 0 BB
6. Mark Buehrle, SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 89
Mark Buehrle When he's on, is there a more aesthetically pleasing pitcher in baseball? For instance, this season Buehrle is averaging 15.8 seconds between pitches versus a league average of 22.7 seconds, and he throws five different pitches for strikes. The veteran lefty has topped 200 innings for 13 straight seasons and owns a career ERA+ of 118.
Key Stats: 21.0 IP, 3-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.86 ERA, 16 Ks, 2 BB
7. R.A. Dickey, SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 33
R.A. Dickey No, the brilliance of his 2012 Cy Young season probably isn't coming back, but the premier knuckleballer in baseball can remain an effective innings-eater for the near-term.
Key Stats: 18.2 IP, 1-2 W-L, 0 SV, 5.3 ERA, 14 Ks, 10 BB
8. John Lackey, SP - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 62
John Lackey Lackey enjoyed quite a bounce-back season in 2013 thanks to a jump in velocity, better bat-missing abilities and improved control. Those gains portend another useful season in 2014. Staying healthy will be the key, especially with all the sliders that Lackey throws.
Key Stats: 18.2 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 SV, 3.86 ERA, 17 Ks, 3 BB
9. A.J. Burnett, SP - Philadelphia Phillies
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 43
A.J. Burnett Burnett is coming off back-to-back ERA+s of 107 in Pittsburgh. His combination of strong groundball tendencies and solid K rates mean he's still capable of being a rotation asset at age 37.
Key Stats: 16.0 IP, 0-1 W-L, 0 SV, 3.94 ERA, 10 Ks, 14 BB
10. Koji Uehara, RP - Boston Red Sox
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 5
Koji Uehara Is Uehara the best closer in baseball right now? The case can be made. Last season, he notched an unthinkably excellent WHIP of 0.57, K/BB ratio of 11.22 and ERA of 1.09. What a legendary season. No Uehara isn't that good, but he'll still be a dominator if healthy.
Key Stats: 5.0 IP, 0-0 W-L, 2 SV, 0.0 ERA, 7 Ks, 0 BB
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