Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Bits: Nelson Cruz quietly producing
By Eric Karabell
Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz fell to the 13th round, on average, in ESPN live drafts prior to this season, which seemed a bit strange, but it made him a nice bargain. Sure, there's outfield depth this season and Cruz has had trouble staying on the field during his career, but he played 159 games in 2012 and has been a consistent provider of power without hurting a team's batting average. Cruz smacked two home runs in Monday's 8-7 win over the Oakland Athletics, giving him an impressive 18 on the season. But looking closer at his numbers, it's not a bad time to consider selling high on a player who does bring considerable risk.
For example, Cruz is swinging and missing at a career-high rate, and that tends to do bad things to a batting average. Cruz is hitting .266, which seems about right, but there's likely some regression coming if he keeps striking out in one-fourth of his at-bats. He's hitting more fly balls than normal and a greater percentage have been leaving ballparks, and he's making less contact than he has since 2009, which is also a negative harbinger. There's little question that Cruz has legitimate power, but he's already closing in on last season's home run total of 24. It's also worth noting his spotty injury history and, while I'm skeptical suspensions are pending anytime soon, the specter of the Biogenesis investigation which Cruz's name has been associated with.
Few would have predicted Cruz to lead all Rangers hitters on the Player Rater, but that's where we stand heading into Tuesday's action, as Cruz pushed past Adrian Beltre with Monday's performance. Hey, be happy you got Cruz at a relative discount this season -- only four players have hit more home runs -- but don't be afraid to move on to safer hitters or pitching help, too.
[+]Enlarge Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Rangers seem committed to keeping Jurickson Profar in the majors -- and the lineup.
In other Rangers news, rookie Jurickson Profar again led off in Monday's game, and he did so as the team's designated hitter, with Lance Berkman getting another day off. The Rangers seem committed to getting Profar at-bats, though there's little clue as to what the regular lineup will look like moving ahead. Second baseman Ian Kinsler isn't likely to remain in the No. 3 lineup slot when Berkman plays. However, Profar has been taking fly balls in left field before games, which of course makes sense since the obvious replaceable hitter in the starting lineup appears to be the struggling David Murphy (.212 batting average) in left field. Profar currently brings second base eligibility only, and he's near the top of ESPN's most dropped list. Ah, rookies have a way of breaking fantasy owners' hearts, but don't give up on Profar in dynasty formats. Plus, it's certainly possible he'll reach his potential offensively once he settles into a position. Perhaps it will be left field.
Box score bits (AL):Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer upped his record to 10-0 with Monday's win over the Baltimore Orioles, striking out 10 and permitting one run over six innings. Scherzer would appear to be an obvious sell-high choice because of his win/loss mark, but the ERA and K rates are real. Meanwhile, lefty Drew Smyly finished up that game with three perfect innings, earning his second save, but the bigger news could be that he will not be replacing injured right-hander Anibal Sanchez in the rotation. Rookie lefty Jose Alvarez, thriving at Triple-A Toledo and winner of his big league debut June 9, is scheduled to get the call Thursday. Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana hasn't won in a month; his outing Monday was disappointing because he couldn't even make it through five innings. There's upside, but Jake Peavy will return eventually. There's a good reason it's not wise for me to recommend Seattle Mariners right-hander Aaron Harang despite shutouts in two of his past five outings. Monday is the reason: Harang was pounded for 12 hits and four runs in five innings. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton hit his 10th home run Monday, doing so out of the No. 2 lineup spot. The Angels can try anything with the batting order, but there's still little indication Hamilton is heating up.
Box score bits (NL):Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte returned to the starting lineup Monday after a lost weekend due to an oblique strain and was hitless in five at-bats. Marte did make a tremendous diving catch, but his batting average dropped six points. There's more regression coming due to his proclivity for striking out. With setup men Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall on the DL, the Cincinnati Reds turned to rookie starter Tony Cingrani with a slim lead to get a few outs in the eighth inning Monday. Cingrani should remain in the role, where he can deliver some value. St. Louis Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller won for the eighth time Monday, but he left after five innings with leg cramps. Don't worry about Miller, the leading contender for top NL rookie honors. Colorado Rockies lefty Jorge De La Rosa permitted one hit and nary a run in seven impressive frames at Toronto on Monday, leaving after 95 pitches because of a sore thumb. De La Rosa is the No. 42 starting pitcher on the Player Rater, yet he's owned in barely a third of leagues. Note that he's thriving on the road (3.04 ERA) and at Coors Field (5-1, 3.40 ERA). Arizona Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell allowed a home run to Giancarlo Stanton to lose Monday's game. Bell now has allowed home runs in three consecutive outings, and J.J. Putz should return later this month.