Likelihood of Nelson Cruz Mantaining His HR & RBI Pace


Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Since the season is one-third complete, now seems like as good a time as any to go over the fantasy baseball stats leaders, look at their respective paces, and see how likely it is that they’ll maintain their pace.

What’s the purpose of this? Well, if you’re a fantasy owner of these guys, maybe you want to sell high on these guys. If you’re a possible fantasy owner, maybe you’re wondering if now’s the time to buy, or if they’re due for some regression.

Here, we kill two birds with one stone, as Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles tops baseball in home runs and RBI.

Note: Stats are current through conclusion of games on May 31. 

  • Current HR/RBI Total: 20/52
  • Current HR Pace: 60/156
  • The last time someone hit 60 HR or 156 RBI in a season? Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa (73, 64 in 2001). With no PED suspicion? Roger Maris (61 in 1961).
  • The last time someone drove in 156 runs in a season? Alex Rodriguez (156 in 2007). With no PED suspicion?Andres Galarraga (150 RBI in 1996).
  • Nelson Cruz Career High? 33 HR in 2009/90 RBI in 2012.

While we’re talking about PED and PED suspicion, we need to have a look at Nelson Cruz, who’s playing quite well after getting suspended at the end of last season. It’s also the second year in a row where a member of the Orioles has been on a 60 HR pace this deep into the year. Actually, Chris Davis managed a 60 HR pace a little longer into 2013.

Cruz can definitely mash the ball. He’s in a great lineup, in a great hitter’s park, and has plenty of great hitter’s parks in his division when the Orioles go on the road.

Still, it’s awfully hard to see him coming close to any of these paces for a full year. He’ll be 34 on July 1 and has never been anywhere near this pace before. Even last year, he was on a pace for roughly 39 homers and 111 RBI before getting suspended, so this is a massive uptick in both categories.

There are two big concerns with Cruz.

  1. Health: He did a reasonable job staying on the field in 2012 and then again in 2013 before his suspension, but Cruz had never even hit 130 games played before 2012. Yes, he’s playing DH more now and certainly the O’s are protecting him, but to top even 50 home runs, you need to play pretty much every day. I don’t know that I see that happening.
  2. Strikeouts: Cruz has always struck out a lot. That’s not at all uncommon for power guys, but the guys who generally challenge 60 HR’s are the ones that are difficult to pitch to. Even Roger Maris struggled with his average, but rarely struck out. There are gaps in the swing that will lead to slumps. Even if they are small slumps, topping 60 HR and 150 RBI will be an awfully big tree to climb.

Cruz can certainly hit and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him have a career year in the power categories, but a 60 bomb, 156 RBI season would be one of the better power seasons ever, and I don’t think Nelson Cruz is that kind of player.

Projected HR & RBI Total: 42 HR, 125 RBI.