2024 Fantasy Baseball Declining Veterans – Springer/Arenado/Hays

by Josh Stevens
2024 Fantasy Baseball Declining Veterans

Welcome to the first edition of the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Declining Veterans, this time led by George Springer.

It’s always sad to see a star player lose some of his juice with age. The players many younger fans grew up watching, or were the staples on fantasy teams for years, start to hit Father Time.

The saying that “Father Time is Undefeated” always rings true. (except for maybe LeBron James and Tom Brady). These three players below are finding out the truth about this quote in real-time.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Declining Veterans

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George Springer, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

It seemed like just yesterday that Springer had an argument to be called a top-five outfielder on the planet.

He brought a huge power stroke to Houston, belting at least 20 homers in every single season he had there, with two seasons over 30 homers. The peak was probably in 2019, where Springer sent 39 over the wall in just 120 games.

Springer kept up the power stroke in Toronto after the move there before the 2021 season, as he averaged 23 homers a season in his first three years. However, there were some noticeable cracks through the armor.

In 2021, Springer was off to a fantastic start to the season, hitting .264 with 22 homers in just 78 games before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. However, the power dipped to 25 bombs in 2022, and again down to 21 in a full season in 2023.

This worrisome drop in power led to an even more alarming decline in OPS. Springer had a .907 OPS in 2021, which dropped to a .814 in 2022, and down to a .732 in 2023.

Springer’s 2023 was also his career low in barrel percentage, and five-season low in launch angle. While he isn’t striking out a ton, he isn’t doing a ton with the balls he’s putting into play.

With Springer coming up on an age-34 season, it’s best to avoid the former All-Star.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

Listen, it breaks my heart to include Arenado on this list. However, the decline of Arenado is something that hasn’t been talked about enough but is developing in front of our eyes.

Our own Alex Welch agrees, calling Arenado’s 2023 a “huge bust for his standards.”

From 2015 to 2019, he had a strong case for being the best infielder in baseball. Arenado was a fantastic fielder and would hit over .300 with 40 bombs year in and year out. It’s a shame the Coors's effect with voters slowed down his MVP push.

Arenado’s first couple of years in St. Louis were more of the same too. He hit 34 homers in 2021 and posted a .891 OPS with 30 homers to finish third in MVP voting in 2022.

However, 2023 was the first sign of adversity for Arenado. His legendary defense faltered, and it was the first season in his 11-year career in which he did not win the Gold Glove.

Even more concerning for fantasy managers was the bat. Arenado’s numbers of 26 doubles, 26 homers, and a .774 OPS were his lowest numbers in a decade.

These numbers have gotten even more worrisome this year, as Arenado has yet to record a homer through his first 12 games. He’s also only walked once in this opening stretch, culminating in a .575 OPS.

The cardinals experts over at redbirdsrants.com agree, stating

“Arenado's walk and strikeout rates are going in the wrong direction, his average exit velocity has dropped from 89 MPH in 2021 to just 85.6 MPH in  2024. Both his whiff and chase rates are going in the wrong direction as well.”

What’s going on with the future Hall Famer?

The troubles are more worrisome than just a rough patch: as it’s back injuries that are causing the decline.

Back injuries are one of the more serious injuries to have in baseball. We saw what happened to David Wright when these issues became more and more serious.

Back injuries are also ones that rarely go away. Injuries to ankles and shoulders can go away, but back injuries are usually ones that follow a player through the end of their career. It’s best to avoid the once-dominant third baseman.

Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles

Some guys have slow starts to the season, and others just look plain bad. Unfortunately, Hayes is the latter so far.

Hays enjoyed a nice 2023, hitting .275 with 16 homers and making his first All-Star team. The Orioles were hopeful that he’d carry this momentum into 2024, where the Orioles were serious contenders to open the season.

However, Hayes hasn’t just taken a step back, he’s taken a leap of faith backward to open the season. Hays has just managed two singles so far in 2023, good for an OPS of .249. Yikes.

The Orioles experts at CamdenChat.com have identified a cause for this.

“There is some evidence of altered swing behavior. His first pitch swing rate (28.6%) is below league average (29.7%), and it is his personal lowest since 2021. That may be connected to the fact that 9.7% of the pitches he’s seeing classify as “meatballs” (pitches in the middle of the zone), according to Baseball Savant. That is well above the league average (7.3%), and yet he is swinging at only two-thirds of them, while the league average there is 76.1%.”

Hayes, normally a free swinger who collects tons of base hits, isn’t swinging at hittable pitches.

Loss Of A Roster Spot?

Hays’s spot may also be lost soon. The Orioles, already a strong team, have monster after monster in the minors.

Cedric Mullins has a spot locked down in center. After 28 games in the MLB last year, Colton Cowser opened with the club this year and has only hit .467 so far. That’s right field locked down.

Hayes is playing left so far, but that’s soon to end when Heston Kjerstad is called up. You may have heard once or twice (or ten times), but Kjerstad is tearing up the minors, capped off by a ten RBI outing.

Hayes might not even get the fourth outfielder spot, which will likely belong to Santander. Will Jorge Mateo get another outfield spot once he’s displaced by Jackson Holliday in the infield?

With all of the negativity and question marks surrounding Hayes, it’s best to avoid last year’s AL starting left fielder in the ASG.

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