Prospect Profile: Nelson Cruz

When the A's acquired outfielder Nelson Cruz from the Mets' organization in 2001, hardly anyone noticed. However, after a breakout season in 2004, Cruz has many around baseball on notice. Adam Miller profiles this power-hitting corner outfielder.

On October 15, the A's added Nelson Cruz to the 40-man roster. What does that mean, exactly? Well, once a player is added to the 40-man roster, he enters his "second option period." There's a fantastic explanation of the options process here written by Christian Ruzich of all-baseball.com fame as the Transaction Guy and a contributor to the Cub Reporter. But basically, now that Cruz has been added to the 40-man roster, the A's have 3 years (through the 2007 season) to shuttle him back and forth between the majors and the minors. After 2007, Cruz would have to clear waivers to be sent back down to the minor leagues.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that the A's like Cruz, and want to see if he is part of their future major league outfield plans. Let's take a closer look at Cruz:

Nelson Cruz, 6'3", 170, R/R

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

IsoP

BB/K

1998

DOM

DOM (ROOK)

18

.271

.338

.314

70

19

0

0

1

7

21

1

.043

0.33

1999

DOM

DOM (ROOK)

19

.278

.366

.357

115

32

4

1

1

16

27

6

.070

0.59

2000

DOM

DOM (ROOK)

20

.351

.425

.610

259

91

14

4

15

33

56

33

.243

0.59

2001

PHX

AZ (ROOK)

21

.250

.283

.409

88

22

3

1

3

4

29

7

.148

0.14

2002

VAN

NW

22

.276

.316

.397

214

59

14

0

4

9

58

18

.121

0.16

2003

KANE CTY

MDW

23

.238

.283

.430

470

112

26

2

20

29

128

48

.187

0.23

2004

MOD

CAL

24

.345

.407

.582

261

90

27

1

11

24

73

39

.234

0.33

2004

MID

TEX

24

.313

.377

.542

262

82

14

2

14

26

69

30

.221

0.38

2004

SAC

PCL

24

.231

.286

.538

13

3

1

0

1

1

7

2

.308

0.14



Cruz was originally signed by the New York Mets out of the Dominican Republic, and was acquired by the A's in August of 2000 for little-used infielder Jorge Velandia. Nelson had just come off a monster season in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .351/.425/.610 with 15 homeruns and an isolated power of .243.

Although he showed flashed of his raw power from 2001-2003, Cruz was largely a disappointment during his first three seasons with the A's organization. He demonstrated little knowledge of the strike zone, hit for a low average, and didn't hit for enough power to make himself useful. However, he had the physical tools to be a productive outfielder. In early June, while reviewing Oakland's top position prospects, we noted that Cruz was "another player to keep an eye on; if he can continue to improve his plate discipline under the A's hitting tutelage, his power could make him a useful outfielder."

2004 would be considered the classic "breakout year" for Cruz. Nelson hit a combined .326/.385/.559, and after starting the season at high-A Modesto, stopping in AA Midland and finishing the year with 13 ABs with AAA Sacramento. His power came back in a big way, with an IsoP over .221 at all three of his stops.

Although his plate discipline is still poor (only 51 walks against 149 strikeouts in 2004), it is improving, and if the power and average breakouts are for real, Cruz could play himself into a corner outfield spot sometime in 2006. He has ideal power for a corner outfielder, but the A's will likely demand further work on his batting eye. Look for Cruz to get some playing time with the major league team in spring training and to spend 2005 as a starting corner outfielder for the Sacramento RiverCats.

Questions or Comments? Please contact Adam Miller at adamgmiller@gmail.com.


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