Nelson Cruz: Not my kind of slugger, but …

00076578_Nelson_Cruz

==He IS a Slugger, if Nothing Else==

Unlike Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz is an above-average offensive contributor.

That being said, pretty much the entirety of his value comes from his ability to hit the ball hard.

And he is very good at that:

HR/PA XBH/PA ISO
Cruz 4.9% 10.6% 0.228
MLB Average (during Cruz career) 2.6% 7.8% 0.148

Problem is, he’s not really good at anything else.  He swiped a few bags back in his 20s, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing that in his mid-30s.

Here’s his whole stat box:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2005 24 MIL NL 8 7 5 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .200 .429 .400 .829 120
2006 25 TEX AL 41 138 130 15 29 3 0 6 22 1 0 7 32 .223 .261 .385 .645 64
2007 26 TEX AL 96 333 307 35 72 15 2 9 34 2 4 21 87 .235 .287 .384 .671 75
2008 27 TEX AL 31 133 115 19 38 9 1 7 26 3 1 17 28 .330 .421 .609 1.030 169
2009 28 TEX AL 128 515 462 75 120 21 1 33 76 20 4 49 118 .260 .332 .524 .856 117
2010 29 TEX AL 108 445 399 60 127 31 3 22 78 17 4 38 81 .318 .374 .576 .950 146
2011 30 TEX AL 124 513 475 64 125 28 1 29 87 9 5 33 116 .263 .312 .509 .821 113
2012 31 TEX AL 159 642 585 86 152 45 0 24 90 8 4 48 140 .260 .319 .460 .779 104
2013 32 TEX AL 109 456 413 49 110 18 0 27 76 5 1 35 109 .266 .327 .506 .833 123
9 Yrs 804 3182 2891 404 774 171 8 157 489 65 23 250 711 .268 .327 .495 .823 114
162 Game Avg. 162 641 583 81 156 34 2 32 99 13 5 50 143 .268 .327 .495 .823 114
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/17/2014.

***

That being said … do not underestimate the value of hitting home runs in more than 4% of plate appearances.  That is a very rare commodity.

When that slugging ability is combined with the ability to draw walks or avoid strikeouts or speed or playing in the middle of the field, it’s Instant Hall of Fame career.

But Cruz brings none of those things.

He is below-average at drawing walks and below-average at avoiding strikeouts.

He’s maybe not as one-dimensional as Dave Kingman (back in the day), but he’s pretty one-dimensional.  Even guys like Mark Reynolds and Rob Deer at least would have double-digit BB%.  Cruz does not.  His career BB% of 7.9% is really scary-low for a slugger.

***

But! Again, that one dimension is very good, and very valuable.  I can tolerate guys who strike out a lot if they bang a lot of homers.  The problem with Casper Wells wasn’t that he didn’t have power, it was that he didn’t have enough power to overcome his K%.

Cruz is not Casper Wells.  He has enough power to sustain a 22% K-rate.

(Of course, it is an open question how much of that power survives leaving Texas and getting off whatever he was getting from Biogenesis, but he’s clearly a big, strong guy and his power is not likely to drop off a cliff.)

(On the other hand, it looks to me like he would need a run of good fortune to sniff 40 HR.   Upper 20s/low 30s looks like a better guess to me, assuming he plays full seasons.)

***

Obviously, there is a need to replace the power provided by Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse.  Even though the offense wasn’t as good as it needed to be, it would have been worse without the ISO they provided.

Thing is, Ibanez and Morse were very much low-risk propositions.  That’s not likely to be true for Cruz.

But I can see overpaying a bit for a power bat in the OF (even he’s not the ideal solution) in the current context (team lacking both power and outfielders).

Just don’t expect him to be the aircraft carrier at the heart of your fleet.  Prince Fielder he is not.

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