Nelson Cruz Player Projection No. 40

Key Stats: Nelson Cruz has been ranked in the top 90 for three straight years at Yahoo, but has not gotten higher than 73rd on the player rater. His power is up there with the best sluggers in the game as we saw last October when he belted 8 home runs in only 62 post-season at-bats. This year he will likely raise his average as his BABIP last season was just .288. Bill James projects that he will have a .312 BABIP this season.

Skeptics Say: Cruz has missed an average of 42 games per season the last three years. He’s been placed on the DL six times and the injuries are always related to the same problems – his hamstring and quadriceps muscles. This is a clear case of a player that won’t bounce back 100% from an injury that has haunted him in the past. Understand that drafting Cruz means you will want to watch out for other injury risks out of fear for clogging up the DL spots (if your league uses a max number of DL spots). Also, keep an eye on Cruz as a base stealer. Last year he only attempted 14 steals which was 7 less than the year before. This could be a case where the Rangers are telling him not to run or he doesn’t feel healthy enough to run.

Peer Comparison: So if he hasn’t finished better than 73rd and he’s not going to solve the injury problem, why would he be ranked this high? Check out these numbers of 120 games from Cruz plus 40 games from Nyjer Morgan (a mixed league late round flier or borderline waiver guy that will likely be available as a back up to Cruz).

Cruz/Morgan: 83 R, 29 HR, 97 RBI, 13 SB, .273 AVG
Hunter Pence: 84 R, 22 HR, 97 RBI, 8 SB, .314 AVG (ranked 37 by Tristan Cockcroft)
Jay Bruce: 84 R, 32 HR, 97 RBI, 8 SB, .256 AVG (ranked 40 by Tristan Cockcroft)

Then there are players like Cruz’s teammate Josh Hamilton, Matt Holliday, and Carl Crawford who are going ahead of Cruz at other sites that have questions of their own pertaining to injury, lineup alterations, and mental problems. With Cruz, when he is playing there is no doubt that what you’ll get is the kind of power that can carry a team for a few weeks. The same can’t be said of outfielders drafted around him.

Lineup Outlook: With all the bop in the Rangers lineup there is one huge question this spring: Who will play center field? It won’t be Josh Hamilton this season. The Rangers three primary candidates are Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, and Leonys Martin. Although all three players impact on the lineup isn’t expected to be great, it effects Cruz who usually will hit fifth or sixth and be on base when these players step up to bat.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #19 Outfielder; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #16 Outfielder & #52 Overall; Yahoo: #11 Outfielder & #37 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #14 Outfielder & #49 Overall; RotoChamp: #101 Overall

Projection: Cruz will get back over 30 home runs this season and also raise his batting average. He always comes out crushing the ball too – 20 home runs in the last three Aprils.
74 R 31 HR 95 RBI 12 SB .275 AVG .340 OBP .865 OPS in 495 at-bats