There is an old saying in the fantasy sports world that it is considerably better to avoid investing in an aging player one season before the inevitable crater of statistics, rather than end up caught when the player shows his clear decline and it tanks your fantasy team. Hey, I am all for avoiding this risk, but I also refuse to assume that every old player is going to suddenly and sharply decline this season. For Washington Nationals DH Nelson Cruz and St. Louis Cardinals SP Adam Wainwright, the end may be nigh, but « nigh » is probably not here quite yet.
Cruz, ridiculously going outside the top-150 players in NFBC drafts, last failed to reach 30 home runs in a full MLB season back in 2013. Cruz whacked 32 home runs last year while hitting .265. The batting average was a concern and most of the problem occurred after the late-July trade to the Tampa Bay Rays. Cruz struggled over the final two months. Was he hurt? Did something change? He was 40. Did he struggle because he was 40? The Nationals clearly do not think so, signing him to be their DH and Juan Soto’s lineup-spot protector. I rank Cruz in my roto top-100 overall. I expect an excellent season.
Wainwright is ridiculously going even later than Cruz — and barely inside the top-200 overall. He finished last season among the top-10 starting pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater. He won 17 games with a 3.05 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 174 strikeouts. Nobody expects quite those numbers again, but it also seems quite silly to pretend they did not happen. Wainwright modified his approach prior to 2020, figuring out how to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, throwing them more often, cutting down his walk rate and relying on the strong Cardinals defense behind him. Yes, he was 39 last season. So what? I rank Wainwright in my top-100 overall and I’m investing in him everywhere.