Outfielder Profile: Just Who Is Nelson Cruz, and Can He Help Your Fantasy Team?

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2010

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Nelson Cruz #17 poses for a portrait during the Texas rangers Photo Day at Surprise on March 2, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

He may not be Clark Kent or Peter Parker, but the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz is definitely a man wrapped in mystery when it comes to fantasy baseball expectations.

After compiling my composite outfielder rankings Friday, it was apparent that Nelson Cruz is all over the place in terms of where he may or may not turn up during your respective drafts. The question then was whether Cruz will wind up a solid draft day value, or overall bust in the making. It was time to do some homework.

He finished 15th in my composite list, factoring in rankings from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, CBS Sportsline and FOX Sports. However, how he got there was the most interesting part; he's currently ranked ninth at cnnsi.com, but 26th at CBS Sportsline. He's 19th among all outfielders for ESPN, and 10th for FOX Sports.

I'd expect a wide range of disparity for a Josh Hamilton or Alfonso Soriano, two elite talents with a long list of injury concerns and aging issues, but what about Cruz?

I grabbed two fantasy baseball magazines to see where they had him ranked. Sporting News has him at 16th. Fanball's NFBC edition has him at a staggering 34th at the position.

Looking back at his path to the majors, Cruz was a project for quite a while, struggling in spot duty during the 2005-2007 seasons with Milwaukee, and then Texas. While he always provided OK pop in his limited big league action, Cruz was wildly inconsistent at the plate in terms of patience, struggling to hit better than .235.

During a minor league stint in 2008 at AAA Oklahoma, Cruz worked on his contact rate and overall plate discipline and had a mini-breakout that carried over to the majors that same season. In 115 at-bats with the Rangers in 2008, Cruz finished with seven homers, 26 RBI, and three steals...but most importantly, a .330 batting average.

In 2009, he was rewarded with his first significant playing time in the majors and responded with 33 homers, 76 RBI, 75 runs, 20 steals, and a .260 batting average in 462 at-bats. Not too shabby.

For those who haven't already checked, ep's Average Draft Position and projections post for the top 20 outfielders has Cruz ranked 17th with a projected 30 homers, 15 steals, 80 runs, 85 RBI. and a .270 average. The projections from Sporting News for Cruz in 2010 are eerily similar.

So, the bottom line is that Nelson Cruz looks to be legit, and if you are playing in a league with more casual baseball fans, Cruz looks like he could be a solid value pick in the draft since he is a relative unknown quantity to non-rotogeeks.

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