There are extremely different views as to the value of Nelson Cruz. Prior to 2009 he was considered a Quadruple-A player, so there are those who believe that last season was simply an aberration. Then, there are those who fully believe in his breakout campaign, thinking that the sky is the limit for him in 2010.
Which is the right way to be leaning? It’s a tough call, to say the least, so let’s take a look and come to a conclusion.
First, his 2009 statistics:
462 At Bats
.260 Batting Average (120 Hits)
33 Home Runs
20 Stolen Bases
.332 On Base Percentage
.524 Slugging Percentage
.280 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The power is the number that jumps out at you and is in the most need of discussion.
Prior to 2009 he had spent parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues, compiling 557 at bats and hitting just 22 HR. He had shown flashes of power before, but nothing compared to his 2008 emergence, where he hit 37 HR at Triple-A and then another seven in the Majors.
The 37 HR barrage did come in the Pacific Coast League, so it should be taken with a small grain of salt. The league is a notorious hitters haven, with home run totals often inflated. While Cruz was thumping the ball, Dallas McPherson was doing the same, hitting 42 HR in 448 AB. How about Joe Koshansky hitting 31 HR in 457 AB?
Cruz’ HR/FB rate has been consistent in his cup of coffee in 2008 and long-term Major League stay, at 21.8%. Still, that’s a tough number to expect repeated. From 2008 to 2009, only five players with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title repeated HR/FB marks over 20%:
- Ryan Howard
- Alex Rodriguez
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Adam Dunn
- Albert Pujols
Those are elite players, so it certainly is fair to expect a regression until Cruz proves otherwise capable (especially given his inconsistent history).
How about his flyball rate? Last season he was at 45.6%, while he was at 37.9% in his 2008 cup of coffee. Let’s look at his recent Minor League numbers:
- 2005 – 47.5%
- 2006 – 41.7%
- 2007 – 42.0%
- 2008 – 45.9%
He’s a bit all over the map. He’s going to hit the ball in the air, but will he be in the low 40 percent range or the high 40 percent range? That’s going to help determine his home run totals.
When you put it all together, the answer is that I can’t go into 2010 expecting him to match the power he showed in 2009. Given his history, along with concerns over his HR/FB rate, he’s going to have to prove that he can maintain that type of level in the Major Leagues over a second, full season, before I value him as such a player on draft day.
That’s not to mention the other concerns that are surrounding him:
- Early word is that he could bat seventh in the Rangers lineup early on (how believable it is may be a different story)
- His health, as he’s only had three seasons in his professional career where he had at least 500 AB (533 in ’04, 501 in ’06, 502 in ’08), making it tough to expect him to have significantly more than that in ‘10
Add everything together and we get the following projection:
.267 (140-525), 28 HR, 90 RBI, 80 R, 17 SB, .306 BABIP, .343 OBP, .495 SLG
I’ll be the first to admit that I am being a bit cautious in these numbers. He strikes out a fair share (25.5% in ’09), so a great average may be difficult. If he is indeed hitting lower in the order, just how many RBI and R is he going to get?
Then, there’s the power, which really could go either way, but given his history, it’s hard to see him repeating.
Which side of the fence do you fall on? Are you believer? Why or why not?
If you would like to see a free preview of the Rotoprofessor 2010 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (available for just $5) now including a Top 50 Prospects for 2010 List, click here.
For some 2010 projections, click here. Among those we’ve already covered include:
- Butler, Billy
- Cain, Matt
- Cueto, Johnny
- Gutierrez, Franklin
- Hamels, Cole
- Hamilton, Josh
- Kershaw, Clayton
- Martin, Russell
- Morneau, Justin
- Peralta, Jhonny
- Ramirez, Alexei
- Sizemore, Grady
- Vazquez, Javier
- Votto, Joey
- Youkilis, Kevin
- Young, Michael
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.