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A Closer Look: Nelson Cruz


Nelson who? Where did this guy come from? He's how old? 29 going on 30?

Cruz appeared out of fantasy baseball obscurity in late 2008 to hit .330 with 7 HR and 3 SB in only 115 AB's. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say he was "hyped" going into 2009 but he was certainly on the fantasy radar. I can admit that I had little interest in him. I'm very wary of guys that suddenly OPS 120 points higher than they ever have before at the age of 28 (which is what he did in 2008 between AAA and the majors). Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Garrett Jones this season... hmm...

Well, my doubts were proven wrong when Cruz posted a serious major league breakout in 2009, hitting .260 with 33 HR, 20 SB, and 151 R/RBI. The relevant question now is, what is he likely to do this season?

Skill-wise, he has sort of a mixed bag. His walk rate has been acceptable and sustained for 2 seasons but he struggles a bit to make contact. That will probably supress his ability to hit for average. His value lies in his power/speed combo though, and here is where he's looking great. SB success rate was fantastic (83%) and his power is real, as he slugged .551/.524 in back to back seasons with similar hr/f percentages. His flyball rate went UP last season, which is great news for his power prospects.

Cruz had only 462 AB's as he dealt with some nagging injuries along the way, but this was a great season fully supported by his peripherals. If he can stay healthy all year, sustain that FB rate, and maybe make a little more contact he's in store for a big one... I'm talking .290/40/20 with 200 R/RBI. That's probably about his upside potential. Weird that a guy that turns 30 in July is pretty much in a growth stage. Realistically, I'd draft him with something like .260/30/20 in mind.