Draft This Not That: Pass On Nelson Cruz, Select Michael Saunders

Nelson Cruz has proven his worth to fantasy owners, when he is able to stay on the field that is.  Last season was actually the first time he played more than 128 games in the Major Leagues, yet the results were nothing to write home about:

.260 with 24 HR, 90 RBI, 86 R and 8 SB

Now, let’s contrast that to the Mariners’ Michael Saunders, who finally got regular playing time in the Majors in 2012 and delivered:

.247 with 19 HR, 57 RBI, 71 R and 21 SB

Obviously, Cruz delievered better numbers overall and thier ADP (according to Mock Draft Central) is as follows:

Cruz – 98.37
Saunders – 185.50

But there are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Saunders is 26-years old while Cruz will turn 33 on July 1
In other words Saunders still has time to grow, while we have probably already seen the best Cruz has to offer.

2) Saunders batting average woes were generally due to luck
He made good enough contact in 2012 (23.9% strikeout rate) and hit the ball hard (20.2% line drive rate), yet yielded a .297 BABIP.  There’s room for growth, as compared to Cruz who, in four seasons with at least 399 AB, gas hit over .263 once (with his best line drive rate being 18.5% over this span).

3) The fences at Safeco Field are being moved in
Is it going to be a homer haven?  Unlikely, but it should help.  Saunders did hit 8 of his 11 HR at home, so it’s not like the ballpark crippled him anyways.

4) Saunders offers more speed
Yes, Cruz once stole 20 bases in a season but can we really expect that now?  He’s more of a 20/10 option (at best in the SB department) while Saunders could be 20/20 or better.

5) Nelson Cruz has been tied to Biogenesis
It remains to be seen if this will be an issue or not, but it’s hanging out there and needs to be considered.

6) Saunders will likely hit lower in the batting order…  to start
We don’t exactly how the Mariners will construct their new lineup (which includes Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse).  However, initially it is likely Franklin Gutierrez penciled in to hit second.  Does anyone expect him to stay healthy for an entire season?  It’s not impossible to think that Saunders could move into that position at some point, which will help his counting stats.  While Cruz is still going to offer more upside (especially in the RBI department), Saunders could potentially go 75/75 this season.  Considering the other numbers, it’s more than enough.

I’m not suggesting that Saunders is a better pick then Cruz, but he is a much better value and could easily offer similar stats at a fraction of the cost.  Saunders could potentially hit .260 with 20/20/75/75.  How much worse is that really then what Cruz may put up?  If you are thinking he’s going to turn back the clock to 2009 that’s one thing, but that’s far from a given and hard to expect.

I’d much rather use the earlier pick on a middle infielder (Ian Desmond has an ADP of 90.99) or a starting pitcher (pitchers with ADPs in that area include Chris Sale, Roy Halladay, Max Scherzer, CC Sabathia and Johnny Cueto) instead of on Cruz.  There is just too much risk (injuries and the PED scandal) and just as much rewarded to be had significantly later in the draft.

What about you?  Is Cruz someone you are willing to draft at his current ADP?  If not Saunders, who else would you target later instead of him?

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  1. Scott says:

    I have a random question which doesn’t relate to this article however I was hoping for your help. Today is the deadline to set my keepers in my 10 team standard H2H league. Right now, I have Verlander (1st Round keeper), Reyes (2nd Round Keeper, Greinke (3rd round keeper), Tex (4th Round keeper), Phillips (5th Round keeper), Rizzo (14th Round Keeper), and Myers (20th Round keeper) as my 7 choices. I’m having some trouble finalizing because I also have Middlebrooks (14th keeper),Gyorko (20th Keeper) who I believe have great value. If I don’t keep someone in my top 5, everyone else slides up because there value was decreased because of a higher keeper. Would you suggest not keeping Tex and keeping someone I have on the bubble? Thanks

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      How long can you keep players for, eternity?

      It’s not that I love the bubble players you have, I just don’t necessarily think Tex is worth a 4th round keeper given the depth at 1B. Anyone else available?

      • Scott says:

        You can keep players for up to three years. This will be the last year for Verlander, Reyes, Tex, Phillips, and Greinke, which is why I’m trying to pair my strong keepers with young talent. Besides Middlebrooks and Gyorko, I have Choo at a 3rd round keeper which eliminates him, Shelby Miller/Wheeler/and Cole @ 20th round, Kyle Seager @ 15, and Daniel Murphy @ 16. Last year, I went for it all and all my keepers returned to the draft pool. I’ve made some trades to get talent, but my fear is trying to build for the future and compete for today at the same time.

        • Rotoprofessor says:

          I am a huge Seager fan, so I would lean towards him though one of those three pitchers are that value is huge.

          All three should make an impact this season, but are you going for it or looking for long-term appeal? Obviously Miller will make the biggest impact in ’13, but Cole may be the best by ’14.

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