In 2009, penciled in behind Josh Hamilton in the cleanup spot for the Rangers is Nelson Cruz. He has 30 homer pop and could steal ten bases with Ron Kovic pinch running. Where’s the lose? Why is he a fantasy sleeper and not simply being drafted like the Minotaur he is? Wait a second, Grey, are you going to burst my freakin’ bubble on Nelson Cruz? Sorry, random italicized voice, I’m just injecting a bit of realism into your 2009 fantasy drafts. Anyway, why is Nelson Cruz a 2009 fantasy sleeper?
Check Cruz’s 2006 minor league numbers: .302/.373/.528 with 20 HRs. Jump on Oprah’s couch, Cruz. Those numbers are incredible. And more of the same in 2007, but still in the minors — .352/.426/.698 with 15 HRs in only 44 games. Why didn’t the Rangers bring him up? They did. Oh, man, he was injured, huh? Nope. If a beach ball fell onto the field, he couldn’t knock it back into the stands. Rumors say the Rangers were considering using his whiffs to cool the luxury boxes. Cruz is The Miz and the minors is the Intercontinental Championship. In 2008, he hit well again in the minors, .342/.426/.695, but then, on his call-up, it finally came together in the majors. In 115 ABs, Cruz went .330/.421/.609 with 7 HRs.
But now he’s twenty-eight years-old. Way to get your act together for the decline of your career. So this last one hundred plus at-bats is probably fluky, right? His BABIP was at a .388 clip. So he has a better chance of striking out 150 times next year than hitting .330. Still, he walked seventeen times last year in those 115 ABs. In his 2007 stint in the Majors, he walked twenty-one times in 307 ABs. Cruz has definitely turned a bit of a corner, but a 28-year-old corner’s expectations should be kept in check. Could he be 2009’s Ryan Ludwick? Yup. Could he start off in a bad slump and fall back into bad patterns? Yup. Nelson Cruz is a 2009 sleeper, but he could easily end up needing to be put to sleep. If everything breaks right, his 2009 projections could be 75/25/90/.270/10.