The top 35 Major League Baseball players over age 35
By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
Any baseball outlet can come at you with a sexy "25 under 25" list.
Look, I love the youths as much as anyone else — there are so many game-changing young talents in the sport today — but sometimes I feel like people forget about the olds.
So this list is for the geezers, the ballplayers who have aged like fine wine or a beautifully umami chunk of parmesan.
Here are my top 35 players over 35.
To qualify: It must be a player’s "age-36 season" or older, according to Baseball Reference, which is calculated as the player’s age at midnight June 30 of that season. That means guys who are still 35 now, such as Tony Watson (born May 30, 1985) and Daniel Bard (born June 25, 1985) do qualify for this list, while guys such as David Price (born Aug. 26, 1985) and Mitch Moreland (born Sept. 6, 1985) do not.
35. Fernando Rodney, RP
Current team: Toros de Tijuana
Rodney and his iconic tilted brim are still kickin' it for Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican League. He's got a World Series ring, almost $50 million in career earnings and the respect of baseball fans from Seattle to Santo Domingo, but the man just wants to keep pitching. 🏹🏹🏹
34. Francisco Liriano, SP
Current team: Free agent
The two-time Comeback Player of the Year isn't on a team right now, but that's all a setup for his third Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Anyone still able to squat for nine innings at age 36 gets a large huzzah from me and deserves to be on this list.
32. Nori Aoki, OF
Current team: Yakult Swallows
After six seasons in MLB, the high-energy outfielder returned to his homeland of Japan in 2018. Despite his proximity to the big 4-0, he’s still one of the best hitters in Nippon Professional Baseball, knocking .308 with 18 taters last year.
If you’re at a game with some friends who don’t watch a ton of baseball (sounds like a great time) and Darren O’Day comes in, you’ll get a lot of "Whoa, what’s that guy’s deal?" The side-slinging righty specialist has been dynamite for a depleted Yanks bullpen and will certainly feature prominently as the team seeks to climb back into contention.
I was 4 years old when Pérez signed his first professional contract with the Padres in 1999. Twenty-two years later, he’s still going, whereas my baseball career fizzled out years ago. Pérez rolls up, chucks junk from the left side and gets enough outs to keep earning one-year deals from Cleveland. He’ll pitch until he’s AARP-eligible.
29. Robinson Canó, 2B
Current team: New York Mets
OK, yes, he's suspended all season after getting popped for PEDs again, but you have to reluctantly admit that he’s still pretty decent at baseball for a 38-year-old, even if his longevity was acquired fraudulently.
One of the game's most gregarious characters, Romo and his endless arsenal of sliders have built one hell of a career. He has been bad so far this year, but he’s in Oakland, and they always have good old relievers, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.
I had to put the guy named Junior on the list of seniors. He also has been the best pitcher on the Angels so far this year, apparently.
When bearded, Miller kind of reminds me of a lankier Elmo. The 2016 ALCS MVP hasn’t been the same dominant force since joining the Cardinals, but he’s still decent and still throws lefty and still has tree limbs.
He doesn’t have the blazing speed anymore, but Dyson’s decade-plus of MLB experience means he Knows How To Play The Outfield™. If you open a dictionary of baseball-specific terms and flip to the entry for "Fourth Outfielder," you’ll see this picture of Dyson.
24. Albert Pujols, 1B
Current team: Los Angeles Angels
Pujols isn’t what he once was, but none of us is. The man is a future Hall of Famer, contractually obligated to continue playing baseball even though his body is inferring that maybe that’s not the best idea. He currently sits at 99.8 Baseball Reference WAR for his career and -0.2 so far this season, so if he can just get back to zero for 2021, dorks like me would go crazy.
If you told me that Matt Joyce retired in 2017, I’d have believed you. He has somehow never been on the Giants, even though he feels like the exact type of guy who would have been inexplicably good for an early 2010s Giants team.
*Sad sigh.* Miggy hasn't been healthy, good, full-season Miggy since 2016. He's hurt again and was already struggling before he got hurt. Maybe he has just enough juice for one last renaissance, but I'm skeptical he can stay healthy. At least he had the play of Opening Day this year.
The oldest big-leaguer on the list of old big-leaguers. It has been a rough go in 2021 thus far for the eternally curveballing lefty. Dick Mountain has been counted out before, only to rise from the ashes, but this time around, it might actually be curtains for everyone’s favorite candy-smashing hurler.
20. Adam Wainwright, SP
Current team: St. Louis Cardinals
Wainwright has been successfully fending off Father Time for a few years now, getting outs and racking up wins despite diminished velocity. But in 2021, he's finally starting to show his age, and unless Uncle Charlie can repair his uncle Charlie, this might be Wainwright's last hurrah.
19. Shin-Soo Choo, OF
Current team: SSG Landers
The greatest Korean hitter in MLB history returned home this offseason for his KBO League debut (Choo went straight to the minors out of high school). He returns a national hero and could become the league’s Rookie of the Year as a 38-year-old, which would be outstanding.
After a seven-year absence from MLB that included a thousand minor-league stops, a battle with the yips and a retirement from baseball, Bard completed his inexplicable comeback in 2020. He has settled in as a shockingly reliable closer, with electric stuff for a 36-year-old.
I wrote about Valdez in the season preview, but the changeup virtuoso has continued to fool hitters with his magical Dead Fish and is currently tied for the AL lead in saves.
He used to be a mediocre starter, then the Royals made him a good reliever. Sound familiar? Now he's in Texas and is a prime candidate to be dealt at the deadline and throw some big innings for a contender down the stretch.
Happ is perpetually solid — not great, not bad, just fine. A reliable man in tumultuous times. After three years as a punching bag for unsatisfied Yankees fans, life as a dependable hurler for a Twins team looking for pitching stability sounds pretty ... solid.
14. Yusmeiro Petit, RP
Current team: Oakland A's
Reliever WAR is kind of a silly and arbitrary way to evaluate bullpen arms, But Petit is third in MLB in that metric since 2017. Unlike your favorite reliever, he throws a ton of pretty good innings instead of a few dominant ones. He’s also the only pitcher left playing in 2021 who allowed a dinger to Barry Bonds.
He opted out last season and looked to be on the brink of retirement, but Mr. National isn’t cooked quite yet. He's stuck behind Josh Bell now, so playing time will be limited, but Zim is definitively #NotWashed.
The only still-playing member of the 2009 Yankees World Series team, the Shiny Headed One simply refuses to go away. The Gardy Party will keep going on one-year deals in the Bronx until the sun shrivels up and humans no longer exist.
Votto certainly isn’t Pujols/Cabrera-level cooked, but he’s probably not Peak Joey Votto anymore. To his credit, the former MVP is switching up his approach this season. No longer the most patient hitter on planet earth, Votto has been much more aggressive in 2021 and, as a result, is barreling up more balls and hitting balls harder. That change has yet to pay dividends on his stat line, but maybe there’s a Joey Votto resurgence coming.
10. Jed Lowrie, INF
Current team: Oakland A's
Mets fans, look away. After two years in Queens, where he had a grand total of nine plate appearances (in part because the Mets refused to let him have surgery), Lowrie is back in Oakland playing every day and crushing baseballs like it’s 2018 all over again. When you look at the standings and see the A’s in first and go "wait, how?" — Jed Lowrie is like 8% of that.
Mark Melancon looks like my high school gym teacher, who was a super nice guy, so I’ve always enjoyed watching Melancon pitch. That probably means nothing to you, but I’m writing this, so I make the rules. Anyway, Melancon as the low-key veteran closer on the league’s highest-key team full of youngins is a pretty great juxtaposition.
8. Yadier Molina, C
Current team: St. Louis Cardinals
Instead of wasting energy debating whether Yadi should be in the Hall of Fame (I think he should), let’s appreciate the most iconic backstop of a generation while we can. He recently caught his 2,000th game, the most ever for one team, and he has been swinging it really well so far this year. Maybe he’ll catch another 2,000.
The wispy-haired Cuban struggled mightily in 2020 but has looked to be very back so far this year. He’s a relatively new old, having made his MLB debut at 32 after a decade of dominating the Cuban League.
6. Justin Verlander, SP
Current team: Houston Astros
This was the hardest guy to rank. If Verlander hadn’t gotten Tommy John last season, he’d probably be No. 1 on this list. Last we saw of him in 2019, he literally won the Cy Young. But he’s unlikely to throw a pitch this season, a free agent at the end of this season and coming off of TJ, so this felt like the right spot for him.
Morton found his truth (crazy velo bump) late in his career, so he has been dominant only since his age-33 season in 2017. He is definitely the type of pitcher who could pitch for five more years as he declines into blah-ness but will probably hang 'em up before it comes to that.
My dude should have stayed in the clubhouse after the World Series, but alas, this isn’t a list of the top 35 COVID etiquette followers in baseball. Turner tested the free-agent waters this past winter, but, like, of course he was going to come back to L.A. And now, on a team full of ultra-famous megastars chasing the all-time single-season wins record, Turner has been the Dodgers’ best hitter this year.
3. Zack Greinke, SP
Current team: Houston Astros
Once upon a time, centuries ago, Greinke dominated hitters with mid-90s heat and a sharp, devastating curveball. As the velocity has dwindled over the years, Greinke has continually reinvented himself, something other young fireball pitchers couldn’t do. He now leans on elite fastball command, a deep arsenal of offspeed offerings and a pitching brain the size of Sheen’s head in that "Jimmy Neutron" episode. A day without command can turn into batting practice, but when he’s on, Greinke is just as surgical and devastating as ever.
2. Max Scherzer
Current team: Washington Nationals
Through four starts this year, Scherzer has looked like, well, Max Scherzer. While it’s reasonable to have concerns about any 36-year-old starter, it’s probably prudent to toss his 2020 season in the trash folder. Last we saw Mad Max cooking with full gas, he was the ace for the team that won a World Series. If he’s 90 percent of what he was in 2019, that’s still a top-10 or top-15 pitcher in the universe.
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1. Nelson Cruz
Current team: Minnesota Twins
If I had to build a lineup to win one game to save the world, Nelson Cruz would be my DH. He’s the only player on this list who you could reasonably say is the best in the world, right now, at his position — and that’s why he’s No. 1.
Cruz just keeps on raking. He turns 41 on July 1, and he’s already in the 99th percentile of most balls barreled up and the 97th percentile of most hard-hit balls this season.
Here’s a list of players who hit more homers in their 30s than Nelson Cruz: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Rafael Palmeiro, Hank Aaron, Jim Thome, Mark McGwire and Willie Mays. That’s the four greatest players of all time, a guy with 600 homers and two others with 500.
Cruz himself is just 77 homers shy of 500, and unless he breaks Bonds' single-season record in 2021, he’ll need at least another year to reach that milestone. Considering he’s still one of the best 10 sluggers in baseball, he’ll probably get the opportunity. That would be an incredible accomplishment for a dude who had only 22 homers when he turned 28.
Whatever happens, Nelson Cruz kicks ass. Also, he’s easily at the top of anyone’s 40 over 40 list.
Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball analyst for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.