Key Stats: Nelson Cruz reduced his strikeout rate by more than 5% from 2009 to 2010. His walk rate did go down as well, but only by 1%. This helped bring his OBP up by 42 points. Surprisingly though, Cruz scored more runs per plate appearance in 2009 than he did in 2010 (one run every 6.87 plate appearances vs. one run every 7.42 plate appearances). If you are looking for a reason for his rating last season or some flaw in his numbers, it’s that. Cruz hit in a more favorable part of the order more often, and in a better lineup last year than he did in 2009.
Skeptics Say: Cruz has never played in more than 130 games and was on the DL three separate times last year. He’s been working on a new running style that puts less stress on his legs this offseason, but when a player is running to beat an infield hit, chase a fly ball, steal a base, etc. it is a very difficult thing to teach them to run a different way rather than letting their instincts take over. And there’s no assurance that it will work.
Cruz’s BABIP also shot up 70 points from last season. One would think that has to come down as well as his .318 overall average.
Peer Comparison: Here’s the pace Cruz was on last year had he stayed healthy the whole season versus those of Ryan Braun over a full season:
Cruz – 90 R 33 HR 117 RBI 26 SB .318 AVG .950 OPS
Braun – 104 R 26 HR 106 RBI 14 SB .304 AVG .866 OPS
As it were, Braun played in 157 games and was ranked 13th while Cruz played in 108 games and was ranked 73rd. I think the safe bet is to assume that Cruz will play in more than 108 games this season, but not more than 145. Given that the Rangers have more flexibility at the DH spot this year, perhaps Ron Washington will give Cruz some at-bats there and also look to run him less on the bases to give him a break.
Lineup Outlook: Cruz is not the only player on the Rangers with health concerns. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton have always had difficulty staying on the field. Kinsler has been on the disabled list every season he’s been in baseball. Last year he played in just one game in April and August combined. Kinsler is a guy remember that in the first half of 2008 was a candidate for MVP of fantasy baseball with 84 runs, 14 home runs, 23 steals, and a .337 average. Then of course he got hurt and came down to earth. Hamilton hurt his ribs last year and missed a ton of time in September, but obviously as MVP still made his presence felt in the Rangers’ lineup. Imagine if Cruz, Kinsler, and Hamilton ever did stay healthy. That’s scary.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #7 Outfielder & #29 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #15 Outfielder; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #30 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #31 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #32 Overall; Rotochamp: #62 Overall
Projection: If you are looking for instant gratification, Cruz has been really good in April and May each of the last two seasons.
82 R 28 HR 94 RBI 14 SB .290 AVG .880 OPS
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