Nelson Cruz Defies Real World Value

While Nelson Cruz might be one of the least favorite of available free agents among nerd faces, it’s hard to ignore what he does rather consistently for your fantasy squad — and that’s hit home runs and drive in runs all while hitting for a decent average. The often injured (or suspended as it were) outfielder has posted an ISO below .240 just once in the last five seasons and has yet to hit below .260 as a major league regular. Cruz has hit 135 home runs in the past five years and he’s really only played a full season once.

That last line pretty much sums up all of the risk with Nelson Cruz. When he’s on the field, he can be a productive outfielder for your fantasy squad. While his days of hitting 30+ home runs and stealing 20 bases is probably over, he nonetheless projects as a player who can rack up 25+ home runs and flirt with 85-90 RBI fairly easily to go along with a career .268 batting average. Even in his PED suspension-shortened season of just 456 at bats, his 27 home runs, 76 RBI and .266/.327/506 slash line was good for 43rd overall and roughly $11 bucks according to the arithmetical ingenuity of Zach Sanders’ cranium.

Where Cruz ends up in free agency could have a huge impact on his value, however. The ballpark in Arlington (or RANGERS ballpark, or whatever they’re calling it now) was one of the friendliest places for right handed batters to hit, and especially friendly for home runs. If you’re a Cruz owner, pray with every fiber of your being that the Reds sign him.

Fantasy draft-wise, I think Cruz occupies kind of an interesting territory. For someone with the ability to hit 30 home runs (I said ability) and hit for a decent average, there aren’t many other outfielders with that profile who will also go in the 9th to 11th rounds. Jayson Werth maybe? Mark Trumbo? I’m spitballing, but the point is he makes for an interesting risk if he continues to languish in the mid rounds.

Looking at his plate discipline figures, there aren’t any red flags to speak of, with everything pretty much in line with his career rates. One thing that stood out about his batted ball data, however, was his home run per fly ball rate, which was at a four year high in 2013. A graph for the visual learner in you:

cruzhrfb

His career rate sits at 16.6%, but all of that has been as a Ranger. Now obviously, that only impacts home games, but you get the point. Should he sign somewhere like Seattle, my bet is the projections start to suggest he only hits about 19-22 home runs in a season where he plays in 135 games or so. If that’s the Nelson Cruz of 2014, then run away. If he winds up in, say, Baltimore, he’ll probably exceed the current Steamer projection of .254/.316/.463 with 24 home runs and 75 RBI.

I recognize it’s foolish to suggest that home/away splits tell 100% of an offensive story, but just to be thorough, here are Cruz’s career home/away splits which you may do with as you please:

AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Home 0.294 0.356 0.556 132
Away 0.242 0.299 0.435 95

Yeeeeeah.

There’s no doubt Nelson Cruz is a butcher with his defense, but he’s a quality third outfielder in most standard roto formats. He’s on the wrong side of the performance arc, but should he slip into the teen rounds or single digit price range, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the investment. Just always have a reliable backup for those 30 games he’ll inevitably miss.




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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.


9 Responses to “Nelson Cruz Defies Real World Value”

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  1. stonepie says:

    how much of home/road splits are simply batters being more comfortable at home? i remember when matt holliday hit the market, teams were weary to sign him because he might be a product of hitting at coors…

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  2. Daniel says:

    Arlington isn’t even good for right-handers

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  3. Andy39733 says:

    Arlington is good for right handers because of the great carry to right center field

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  4. jthom17 says:

    Park factors dropped big time for Texas in 2013 according to StatsCorner. RH HR was only 101 v. 116 for 2012. RH Runs was 109 v. 119. How much of the drop was due to the Rangers very average offense in 2013 (21.7 WAR for 2013 v. 21.7 for 2012)?

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    • Jared says:

      jthom – the park factors decreased because Texas rebuilt the lower grandstand concourse around home plate opening up airflow in the ballpark. That change in airflow effectively killed the jetstream that took weak flyballs to right and made them homeruns.

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  5. FreeJurickson says:

    From what I understand, additions to the stadium killed that right-center jet stream.

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  6. nelz cline singers says:

    He’s not nearly as bad with the glove as he’s made out to be. He has the skills but just takes inconsistent routes. He has the ability. http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=28201751&game_pk=347837

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  7. Peter says:

    As a Mariners, the idea of fan Cruz coming here scares me. His home/road splits theoretically very telling, albeit his splits in Safeco are just about the same as his road splits, which I find to be somewhat surprising, as I would expect worse: .238/.299/.442. Granted, its only 48 games and 172 ABs, so its a small sample size.

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