Player profile – Nelson Cruz

Background

Nelson Cruz is an interesting player for 2009. He had a stellar year in the minors and with Texas last year, and he gets great projections from most projection systems. However, I’ve claimed in the past that Cruz could be an overvalued commodity in 2009 given that many owners will be looking for another Ryan Ludwick. Let’s take a look at Cruz’s profile and see what you should expect from him in 2009.

Skill Set

YEAR  AGE  TEAM  AVG  PA   CT%  UBB% ISO   GB%  FB%  LD% BABIP HR/FB%
  2006   25MIL 3A0.297  418   73   10 0.226 37.3 41.7  21  0.36  19.4
  2006   25TEX   0.223  138 75.3  5.1 0.162 45.90.41912.2 0.247  13.5
  2007   26TEX 3A0.352  188   79 10.6 0.346 38.8 41.919.4  0.36  23.1
  2007   26TEX   0.235  333 0.72  6.5  0.15 37.6 46.316.1 0.299   8.9
  2008   27TEX 3A0.342  448 77.3 10.7 0.352 34.8 46.118.7 0.359    22
  2008   27TEX    0.33  133 75.7 11.3 0.278 40.2 37.921.8 0.388  21.2
System   AB    AVG   OBP   SLG   HR  RBI  R   SB
Bill Jame   443 0.278 0.352 0.533  28   84  74  18
CHONE       491 0.271 0.347 0.495  27   87  78  12
Marcel      271 0.258 0.324 0.435  10   39  35   4
Oliver      518 0.277  0.34  0.51  30    0   0   0
ZIPS        471 0.282 0.354 0.531  31   92  78  14

The first table is Cruz’s past three years of performance at the major and minor leagues. The second table is Cruz’s projections for 2009. Note that Oliver does not offer projections for RBIs, runs, or stolen bases. Marcels easily has the most pessimistic projection. This is because Marcels does not include minor league data. Cruz has struggled during his time in the majors, excluding 2008, which leads to Marcels not giving Cruz a very good projection.

Cruz has had no problem hitting for power. Expect this continue, especially with him hitting in Texas. In December, Ron Washington stated that Cruz would hit cleanup behind Josh Hamilton. This offers Cruz a big time RBI opportunity. Cruz also provides some decent speed, as scouting reports had him with plus speed as he was coming up through the minors. We’ll have to see how much Ron Washington lets Cruz run, but he has the potential to add 10-15 steals.

Cruz struggled in 2006 and 2007 in the majors because of his plate discipline. Cruz still struggles to make consistent contact which puts his batting average production at risk. Even during his stellar 2008 season, his average was inflated by a high BABIP. Given this is his main concern, Cruz should still put up good power and add in some decent speed. With his skills and projections, Cruz looks like a nice sleeper outfielder. Let’s look at what risk he brings.

Risk

Experience: Medium risk. Cruz has about a seasons worth of major league plate appearances. This is offset somewhat by his minor league sample size.

Playing Time: High risk. Ron Washington did say that Cruz would be his cleanup hitter for 2009. However, Cruz has only really had 133 good plate appearances in the majors and might have to fight the Quadruple-A hitter tag. If he starts to struggle out of the gate, Cruz would be at risk of getting sent down. Additionally, with Josh Hamilton moving to right field, Texas might look to give Marlon Byrd a few more at bats given his experience in center field.

Skill Risk: Medium risk. Cruz has shown pretty good power skills which should be fine for next year. However, he hasn’t really made any gains with his contact skills, and this keeps him as a batting average risk.

Age: Very low risk. Cruz will be 28 next year and should be at his peak right now.

Burnout: Low risk. Cruz really hasn’t had any noticeable injury problems.

Overall Risk: Medium risk. Cruz has two main risk concerns. The first is how much playing time he will get. However, if Cruz hits like his projections say he can he should be able to secure consistent playing time. Cruz’s second main risk is with his batting average. A low contact rate and his tendency to hit fly balls leave him with a chance to hurt your batting average.

Conclusion

If you draft Nelson Cruz this year, you should get above average power with decent speed. Additionally, he has the potential to help a lot with RBIs if he hits cleanup. However, he does bring risk in a few areas. When it comes to acquiring Cruz, a lot will depend on your league. More in depth leagues should be aware of Cruz, and he will likely be fairly priced. Don’t expect a Ryan Ludwick season unless Cruz gets lucky with his line drive rate and BABIP. However, Cruz does bring a solid skill set and would be a fine player to fill out the end of your outfield.

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Comments

  1. Mike Ketchen said...

    Victor,

    Great stuff! My question is the following, would a .270/25/15 line really be a reach? His skill set seems to have shown stellar improvement and he has now been raking for a yr straight between the minors all the way to winter ball.

  2. Victor Wang said...

    Mike,

    Thanks.  I don’t think it would be too much of a reach.  Keep in mind he was a 27 year old who had experience in AAA already.

    Jonathan,

    Good point.  However, I still think he would be at risk of diminished playing time if he struggles initially.

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