Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Age isn't just a number anymore in baseball; it's a grim reminder that a player's time on top is limited.
Just look at Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. Pujols is 33 years old and has produced his worst statistical season by far -- a .258 average, 17 home runs, 64 RBI, 49 runs and a .767 OPS. His body is breaking down; Pujols had knee surgery this past offseason and has been dealing with plantar fasciitis the entire year. According to reports Sunday, a torn plantar fascia likely will keep him out for the rest of it.
While there are still examples of aging veterans producing elite seasons -- 40- year-old Bartolo Colon and 37-year-old David Ortiz are two of the big ones -- baseball is now a young man's game. This is reflected in fantasy baseball as well.
The top 17 fantasy hitters this year are 30 years of age or younger. Only five players among the top-25 fantasy hitters this year are older than that. The same number of top-25 starting pitchers are 31 or older too.
Due to Pujols' lackluster season, I might never draft a player in his early 30s in the first few rounds ever again. As Chris Davis (age 27), Carlos Gonzalez (27), Mike Trout (21), Adam Jones (27) and Andrew McCutchen (26) have dominated the game this season, I've had to watch a worn-down Pujols limp his way through 99 games.
If I do take an early risk on a player in their 30s, though, it would probably be a first baseman.
The average age of the top-10 first-base eligible fantasy hitters is 29.2 years old, the highest of any position.
Second base is second at 28.5 years of age, slightly ahead of catcher (28.3) and shortstop (28.1). The lowest average age of any position is outfield at 27.1, beating out 27.7 for third basemen.
Just one outfielder in the top 10 is older than 29 -- the 32-year-old Jose Bautista, and he ranks 10th at the position. The top four third basemen are 30 or older, but the players who rank fifth to 10th are 27 or younger.
Starting pitching is also dominated by youth. The average age of the top-10 starters this season is 27.5.
Meanwhile, due to the success of Joe Nathan (38), Jason Grilli (36) and Koji Uehara (38) this year, the average age of the top-10 fantasy relievers is 30.1, but nobody should ever take a closer in at least the first five rounds of a fantasy league. Even if you don't adhere to the "don't pay for saves" credo, taking a closer before Round 6 isn't a smart move so those guys don't really apply to this situation.
After seeing Pujols tank this season, fantasy owners might have to create a new motto: "don't pay for age."
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