The 2022 MLB season is nearly here, and it’s a young man’s game. The likes of Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, Tampa Bay Rays infielder Wander Franco, and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have taken the league by storm, and none were older than 23 as of publication.
Still, plenty of older players have continued playing at a high level, including a handful of veterans in their 40s. Unlike other sports, the upcoming campaign will feature numerous players, including St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who are at least 40 years old and seeing meaningful action.
For this list, we only included players who were guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster. As one might expect, we did not include any free agents or players currently playing in other professional leagues.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, here are the 2022 MLB season’s oldest players.
7. Darren O’Day, RP, Atlanta Braves (age 39)
O’Day, who turns 40 on Oct. 22, is back in the majors after hamstring injuries limited him to 12 games and 10.2 innings with the New York Yankees last year. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound reliever totaled a stellar 1.25 ERA in 27 games with the Braves from 2019-20 and was one of the league’s most consistent relievers in the 2010s.
If O’Day stays healthy, he should provide the defending World Series champions with a pivotal boost out of the bullpen. However, if he again struggles to remain on the field, the end might be near for the 2016 AL All-Star selection.
6. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals (age 39)
The end is certainly approaching for Molina, who announced in August 2021 that the 2022 campaign would be his last. The 10-time All-Star, who turns 40 on July 13, hit .252 — his lowest batting average since a .216 showing in 2006 — with 11 home runs, 66 RBI, and a career-high 79 strikeouts in 121 games last season.
Although he’s among the league’s oldest players, Molina’s leadership and defensive skills should keep him in the Cardinals’ starting lineup all season. Don’t be surprised to see him earn All-Star honors in July regardless of how low his average might be at the time.
5. Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals (age 40)
Unlike Molina, the 40-year-old Wainwright hasn’t outright committed to the 2022 season being his final in the big leagues. Uncle Charlie dominated opposing hitters last year, tallying a 17-7 record with a 3.05 ERA, three complete games, and 174 strikeouts in 206.1 innings.
Although it might be too much to ask Wainwright, who will celebrate his 41st birthday in August, to record similar numbers this year, the Cardinals can at least count on him to be an innings-eater and a usually-reliable starter so long as he stays healthy. In the end, that might be enough for first-year manager Oli Marmol.
4. Oliver Pérez, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (age 40)
Pérez made his MLB debut on June 16, 2002. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Tom Brady had just won his first Super Bowl, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal still played together on the Los Angeles Lakers, and Eminem’s new album, The Eminem Show, had hit stores only weeks earlier.
Yes, Pérez has indeed been around a long time.
Pérez, who turns 41 in August, didn’t allow an earned run in five games and 3.2 innings with the Cleveland Indians last year, and he’s still a reliable left-handed reliever. Although he might not be on the Diamondbacks’ roster all season, he cracks our list given his status on the Opening Day roster.
3. Nelson Cruz, DH, Washington Nationals (age 41)
Will the 41-year-old Cruz make it to 500 home runs? It’s not impossible, and the universal DH could help Cruz stick around long enough to join one of baseball’s most celebrated clubs. The seven-time All-Star, who currently has 449 bombs to his name, mashed 32 homers a year ago and signed a two-year deal with the rebuilding Washington Nationals.
Cruz turns 42 on July 1 and hasn’t hit fewer than 30 home runs in a full season since 2013, when a suspension ended his season in August. Don’t be surprised to see Boomstick end the year within 20 home runs of entering the 500-homer club.
2. Rich Hill, SP, Boston Red Sox (age 42)
The veteran pitcher affectionately nicknamed Dick Mountain is back for his 18th big-league season and a third stint in Boston. Hill went 4-1 with a 1.14 ERA in 40 games, all out of the bullpen, for the Red Sox from 2010-12. He rejoined the Red Sox in 2015 and made four starts, going 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Somehow, Hill is still around, and he’s fresh off tallying a 3.86 ERA in 158.2 innings for the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets a season ago. The elderly lefty turned 42 on March 11 and has shown no inclination to retire just yet.
1. Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, St. Louis Cardinals (age 42)
The Machine is back in St. Louis, and this will indeed be Pujols’ final ride. The three-time NL MVP hit .236 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI across 109 games between the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers last season, and he’ll likely spend his final big-league campaign exclusively facing left-handed pitchers.
Still, he’s at least returned to St. Louis, and he’ll try to win a third and final ring with Molina and Wainwright. If it’s anything like old times, the NL Central might want to avoid pitching to Pujols late in games.