Those looking for this year's Josh Hamilton—a breakout slugger—look no further than teammate Nelson Cruz. Nelson, who will turn 29 this season, has made a career in the minor leagues.
He capped off his minor career last season with a bang; a bang which included blasting 37 home runs and batting in 99 runs, not to mention a .342 batting average. Last year's spectacular performance in triple-A earned him the Pacific Coast League MVP award.
Nelson's triple-A contract with Oklahoma was bought out on Aug. 25, 2008.
His PCL MVP performance had earned him a starting gig in right field for the Texas Rangers. For the first time in Nelson Cruz' career, he also began to translate his minor league successes into major league production. Batting .330 with seven home runs and 26 runs batted in just 31 games played.
This season will be different. Cruz won't be buried in the Rangers' minor leagues, or even in the lineup at the seventh slot. No, he'll be right up in prime time, batting clean-up behind last years American League RBI leader. Josh Hamilton.
Nelson Cruz' new duties this year will include clearing the bases for a team which scored a league-leading 901 runs last season. And I expect him to follow the Texas Rangers Tradition.
- 2009 Major League Projection - .291 avg, 30 HR, 101 RBI.