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#pounditWednesday, December 2, 2020

10 MLB veterans still making a huge impact

Bartolo Colon swing
Major League Baseball gets a lot of attention for its young stars. The likes of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Carlos Correa are all under the age of 30 and look like they’ll be successful for years and years to come.

It may be a young man’s game, but there remains plenty of room for the old guard. There are a number of players who have been in the league for a decade or more and are well over the age of 30 who are still performing at a very high level. Here are 10 of those grizzled veterans who are making huge contributions in 2018.

1) Bartolo Colon, Rangers

There is no way a list like this could exist without the magic that is Big Sexy. Colon turns 45 later this month and it doesn’t seem to matter at all. Beloved by his teammates and fans as well, it’s not even really a joke — Colon is pitching really, really well. He has a 3.29 ERA, a WHIP of 0.83, and took a perfect game into the 8th in April against one of the best-hitting lineups in baseball in the Houston Astros. Oh, and he was born during the Nixon Administration. If that’s not getting it done at an advanced age, nothing is.

2) Max Scherzer, Nationals

Scherzer is the rare player who appears to be getting better with age. He’s won two straight Cy Young awards, and 2017 saw him post his best ERA ever with a 2.51 mark. His last two seasons have also seen his strikeout rate rise to a pair of career bests, topping out at 12 per nine innings last season. The 33-year-old has fanned 80 in 51.2 innings so far in 2018, yet another improvement on the strikeout rate, and has a 1.74 ERA. Cy Young number four may be in his future at this rate.

3) Nick Markakis, Braves

It’s been a decade since Markakis popped 20 home runs in a season, but it looks like he might be able to top that number once again. The 34-year-old outfielder is in the last season of a four-year, $44 million deal and finally giving the Braves some return on their investment. Markakis is hitting .344 with six homers and nine doubles this season, to go along with 25 RBIs. His batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS are all at career-high marks. Who would figure that he’d be having his best season in his 13th year.

4) Justin Verlander, Astros

It’s easy to forget now that, roughly four years ago, there were worries that Verlander’s best days were behind him. In 2014, he battled injury and ineffectiveness with a 4.54 ERA before undergoing offseason surgery. Ever since then, Verlander has seen a remarkable renaissance. Now 35, he’s pitching some of the best baseball of his career, having posted a 1.13 ERA over 13 regular season starts since being traded to the Houston Astros late last season. He was a big part of their World Series-winning effort, as he went 4-1 in the postseason.

5) Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox

Entering the season, it wasn’t clear if the Red Sox even had a place for Ramirez in the lineup. Hanley put that aside and staked his claim to an everyday job by virtue of his bat. The 34-year-old is hitting .297 with three home runs and 19 RBIs, and has been a big part of Boston’s early season success. Subsequently, the Red Sox have been sticking him at first base or DH. He may not be one for defense anymore, but he can still hit.

6) Robinson Cano, Mariners

Cano’s power has dropped off a bit from where it was in his prime, but the hit tool overall hasn’t suffered much. The 35-year-old is off to a fine start for Seattle, hitting .283 on the young season with three home runs and 18 RBIs. If he can bump his average up a little, he’d be flirting with his first .300 season since 2014. Cano’s average has consistently been above .280 and he still plays a capable second base, too. He’s still routinely making All-Star teams, and 2018 may see it happen again.

7) Joe Mauer, Twins

There’s almost an air of disappointment around Mauer ever since he changed positions. The physical demands of catching meant he couldn’t stick at the position, and the power that never developed as hoped made him a first baseman who doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. Perhaps there’s logic behind that, but the man can still hit for average, recovering to hit .305 last season and starting with a .291 average this season. The 35-year-old is also drawing a ton of walks, with a .434 OBP showing his credentials. That 2009 season where he hit 28 home runs may have proved to be a fluke, but Mauer is still one of the better pure hitters around.

8) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

An injury-riddled 2017 looked like it might be the beginning of the end for Cabrera. And although he’s battled injuries this season, he’s showing that the obituaries were premature. The power numbers are still a work in progress — only three home runs so far — but the 35-year-old has nine doubles, already close to half of his 2017 total of 22. He’s hitting .323 and drawing plenty of walks. Age may be catching up to Cabrera in some ways, but when healthy, the bat is still there.

9) Joey Votto, Reds

Votto turns 35 in September, but he’s still putting up MVP-caliber numbers. Had he been on a better team in 2017, he may have had a better case for winning the award again, as he hit .320 with a .454 OBP and 36 homers. The numbers are a bit down in 2018, but he still has five homers and a .408 OBP. It may be just a matter of time before the batting average recovers and climbs above .300. The best part? His plate approach and his ability to take walks ensures that he’ll remain extremely valuable even if it doesn’t.

10) Adrian Beltre, Rangers

Beltre’s longevity is nothing short of remarkable. He just turned 39 on April 7, and injuries are starting to get the better of him — a hamstring problem will cost him time and threatens to make this a second consecutive injury-hindered year — but he was still hitting .310 and playing his traditionally solid third base before he went down. It would be his third straight .300 season and his seventh in the last nine years. Health appears to be the only thing that can slow him down.

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