Newly acquired outfielder Nelson Cruz has been one of the most heavily criticized free agents this winter. Some analysts believe that Cruz is one dimensional and he has many severe flaws. While Cruz is definitely not a perfect player, these opinions are misguided. Cruz is an impact player, and he will be an asset to the Baltimore Orioles in 2014.
Cruz is a prolific power hitter, and he solidifies the Orioles lineup. Despite missing some time due to injuries, Cruz has averaged 27 home runs per season over the past five years. Prior to his suspension last season, he was on a pace to hit over 40 home runs. Only two players hit over 40 home runs last year, and just 14 managed to hit over 30. So the type of power Cruz provides is rare in today’s game.
Some people believe Cruz does not have good plate discipline, but this is an exaggeration. He is not a poor contact hitter, and his OBP is consistently around or above the league average. Cruz has hit a respectable .272, in his last five seasons with the Texas Rangers, and his .327 OBP is above the league average of .318. In addition to his elite power, his decent contact and on base skills make him an excellent overall hitter.
Cruz is also criticized for his defense, but this is not a factor for the Orioles. First off, it is not uncommon for sluggers like Cruz to be a liability on defense. Secondly, the Orioles have the option to put him at DH, so his biggest weakness will be covered up.
A one-year contract for a hitter like Cruz is a tremendous bargain. He strengthens the Orioles’ lineup and provides them with a dangerous right-handed bat. While they had to give up a second-round pick for him, this is also not an issue. If Cruz has another solid season in 2014, the Orioles will likely gain a first-round pick in return if he signs with another team.