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Nelson Cruz Orioles: A Fantasy Baseball Take on Latest Signing

The Baltimore Orioles are definitely taking advantage of the late free agent market. Fresh off of signing Ubaldo Jimenez, the Birds have signed slugger Nelson Cruz.

So, what kind of impact will this move have on Cruz? What about the rest of the team? Let’s see.


For Cruz

With the possible exception of a return to the Texas Rangers, this was the best possible move for Nelson Cruz this off-season. He’s likely going to hit fifth in the Orioles lineup, surrounded by guys like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Since runs and RBI are stats that are at least as dependent on teammates as they are the individual, potential fantasy owners couldn’t have asked for much more.

But what about the long ball? After all, that’s pretty much what you’re drafting Cruz for, right. Well, this is what ESPN Park Factors tell us about his new home park and his old home park over the last five years. 

Baltimore vs. Texas HR Factors

Baltimore Factor
Baltimore Rank
Texas Factor
Texas Rank

He’s leaving a good place to hit the long ball, but also going to a place that’s known for being home run friendly. Now, a guy like Cruz could still hit plenty of homers in a pitcher’s park, but knowing that he’s going to a similar stadium gives potential owners peace of mind, if nothing else.

So for the fantasy value of Nelson Cruz, I’m giving this signing a solid A. I don’t exactly know what he’ll end up doing this year, but he’s in the best place for success. As a fantasy owner, you can’t ask for anything more than that.


For Others

When the Orioles are healthy, this is what I’m guessing the Top-7 in their lineup will look like.

  1. Nick Markakis
  2. Manny Machado
  3. Chris Davis
  4. Adam Jones
  5. Nelson Cruz
  6. Matt Wieters
  7. J.J. Hardy

With the exception of the injured Machado, that’s what MLB Depth Charts is saying right now, and for the sake of splitting up left-handed and right-handed bats, it’s about as good as Buck Showalter could do. Markakis and Machado likely won’t be impacted too much by Cruz, but what about the fantasy value of the other four guys?


– Chris Davis: From a more traditional standpoint, Adam Jones would be hitting third and Crush would be hitting fourth. But in this era, you really need to split righties and lefties up, so Chris Davis really needs to hit third. For his fantasy value, this is a good thing. Actually, it’s a great one.

Davis was hitting third for the O’s last year and in front of Jones, he was getting great pitches to hit. Now, he’s going to get that again, with a proven bomber in Nelson Cruz after Jones. In a bubble, hitting third may slow Crush’s RBI potential up, as he won’t be able to drive in Jones, but there’s a catch. But outside of the bubble, we see that hitting in front of Jones also increases the quality of pitches to hit, which increases the HR total, which increases the RBI total. It all works itself out for Crush here.

Given how surprising last season was from an overall hitting standpoint, he’s something of a gamble heading in to this year. But this move helps eliminate a big part of that gamble.


– Adam Jones: I’d like Adam Jones a lot more in the No. 3 spot in the order but if he’s batting fourth, I’m happy Nelson Cruz is going to be there to protect him.

The truth is that I love the dependability of Jones. Realistically, I’d only take Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano, and maybe Carlos Gonzalez over him in a draft.

Lastly, this makes Jones moving into the No. 3 hole a little more likely than if they’d signed a lefty. If things are going bad early, then they could switch Jones and Davis in the order while keeping the same lefty/righty splits in order.

Ultimately, I don’t know that this move helps Jones, but it certainly doesn’t hurt him.


– Matt Wieters: If they keep the Top-5 above, then Matt Wieters may be the biggest winner of this move. On most nights, Showalter will have very little choice but to hit Wieters sixth, between Cruz and Hardy. With the possible exception of games when they’re facing a left-handed starter, the O’s will have to have a lefty (or switch hitter in Wieters’ case) splitting things up.

I’m not the biggest fan of Wieters but as we talked about earlier with Cruz, his chances to succeed are pretty well maxed out here. That’s the best thing you can ask for with someone’s fantasy value.


– J.J. Hardy: For every winner, there must be a loser and Hardy’s fantasy value definitely takes a hit here. Now, J.J. Hardy is still fantasy relevant, but you never want to see someone on your team hitting seventh.

The good news is that Hardy’s value is predicated largely on HR and RBI totals, and he’s in a reasonable spot to put up decent totals there. But the runs scored and average are quite precarious right now. The bottom of the Baltimore order doesn’t strike a lot of fear in the hearts of pitchers. It will limit the quality of pitches that he sees, and his chances of being brought around to score when reaching base.


Tags: Baltimore Orioles Nelson Cruz

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