While young, top prospects are always in high demand, good managers know that at times their team relies on the seasoned veterans to make a real difference on the roster. While staying healthy can be a challenge for the older players, at times, their abilities can often far exceed expectations.
This year, there are seven players entering the 2017 season at or above the age of 38. We break them down here:
1. Brian ‘Groucho’ Halpin, California Tidals (2B), 40 (born October 17, 1976). It is exceedingly rare to see a quality player at second base who is over 36, as it’s a tough position to play that is hard on the body. But Brian Halpin is still going strong at 40. Last year, while playing for the Boston Brawlers, he gave up only two errors in over 545 innings played, and was a part of an incredible 57 double-plays. His career fielding pct is a respectable .985.
And, Groucho can still hit, too. In 64 games last year, he hit a decent .231 while notching up 22 runs and 21 RBIs. As the oldest player in the league, this dog has few new tricks to learn.
2. Nick MacLellan, Denver Highlanders (RP), 39 (born June 17, 1977). Nick is a five-time all-star southpaw who hails from Vancouver, BC, and has made the tour through the BL with stints in both the American Eagle League and the Lake League. Last year, he was a fixture in the Chicago Pit Bulls bullpen, where he was 0-2 with 12 saves, and an enviable 3.27 ERA. His WHIP of 1.02 makes rookie pitchers with hot arms jealous. MacLellan has managed to stay extremely healthy through his lengthy career, recently only missing 3 days due to flu, back in 2014.
3. Jesse Nelson, Seattle Salts (2B/DH), 39 (born November 14, 1977). Another veteran second baseman, Jesse Nelson has been a consistent offensive force since he started in 1999, earning 10 Gold Crown Awards for 2B and 13 trips to the All-Star game. The veteran hasn’t missed a single game since 2013, and led the AEL in plate appearances in 2015 with 379. Even at 38, he was able to hit 20 home runs last year, while batting .269 and driving in 61 runs. While he has been transitioning more and more to the DH role, he still managed nearly 300 innings at 2B in 2016, committing only 5 errors.
4. Jeremy Fleming, Denver Highlanders (2B), 38 (born July 20, 1978). Fleming’s offensive abilities have tapered off in his late career, but he is still a surprisingly energetic fielder who spent time all around the infield last year with Jacksonville, going error-free at 2B in over 110 innings.
5. Barry ‘Hulk’ Janmaat, Jacksonville Ravens (1B), 38 (born August 28, 1978). The massive Dutchman Janmaat has been a fixture in the league since 1999 when he debuted with the then-Hamilton Industrials. He quickly established himself as a dominant hitter and run producer, twice winning batting titles. Over his career he has put up Hall of Fame worthy numbers, including 165 stolen bases and a career average of .308. Ohio Oxen fans in particular remember the veteran from a July 26, 2016 outing where he stung the Oxen for a grand slam.
6. Narushi ‘Turbo’ Ohata, Boston Brawlers (LF), 38 (born July 11, 1978). Still consistently a dominant player, Turbo has spent his entire career wrecking Lake League pitcher’s ERA’s, amassing 342 home runs, 1,019 RBIs, and scoring 869 times over his career, which started in 1998. His career average of .321 is 9th on the league leaderboard, while his home run total sits alone at the top of active players, and just behind the immortal HOF-er Carl Simms.
7. James Paterson, Seattle Salts (1B/DH), 38 (born February 16, 1979). The Englishman from Harrowgate, Paterson has been a reliable offensive bat through most of his career in the Bull League and even flirted with .300 just two seasons ago with Calgary, before finishing with .294 that year.
As the numbers for these veterans show, you can’t really tell when someone’s career is in its sunset, sometimes. Good luck to these, and the other 30-somethings, in 2017.