Minnesota Twins’ Nelson Cruz points toward fans after crossing home plate on his 400th career home run in the first inning of a baseball gameagainst the Kansas City Royals, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Nelson Cruz Named Top DH in MLB by ‘The Athletic’… And They Won’t Hear MN Subscribers Argue

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Nelson Cruz has been named the top designated hitter in Major League Baseball by The Athletic’s Jim Bowden. Are Minnesota Twins fans even the least-bit surprised? No, not after watching him hit 41 homers and drive in 108 runs in 2019?


Nelson Cruz is like a 1996 bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild — he just keeps getting better with age. It’s almost unbelievable to think that he is just one month away from this 40th birthday and he’s coming off arguably the best season of his career. He won his third Silver Slugger this past season after putting up his best career slash line of .311/.392/.639, belting 41 home runs and driving in 108 runs. It was the fourth time in his career he’s hit 40 or more homers and the sixth consecutive year he’s hit at least 37. His OPS+ suggests he’s 66 percent better than the average hitter.

The Athletic – Jim Bowden

The Numbers:

At 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds, Cruz’s power and discipline at the plate was never a question when the Twins signed the now 39-year old, during free agency in 2019. 

With a lineup consisting of solid defensive options across the board, the Twins solely focused on a DH option that offered nothing but the most offensive firepower possible. That was Nelson Cruz. Falvine had Baldelli write “Cruz” into the middle of the order *with permanent marker, and bet on him to play at a similar levels to years past, while also taking on the main leadership role in a locker rooms full of youngsters…

And man, did it pay dividends. — *vs American League teams


NELSON CRUZ 2019 STATS
Batting Average.311
On-Base Percentage.392
Slugging Percentage.639
Home Runs41
RBI108
WAR4.4
OPS+166
Average Exit Velocity93.5 mph
Hard Hit Percentage50.0
wOBA.388
xwOBA.399
Barrel Percentage15.5
Via The Athletic – Jim Bowden

The Advanced Numbers:

Looking at Nelson Cruz’ stats from last season (including the best slash line of his career), it’s clear why he is Bowden’s #1 DH. He has Cruz trending sideways, which seems inarguable given his age. It’s a better direction than trending downwards. Hell, most ball players Cruz’ age have been playing golf for 4-5 years already.

Cruz’s super-advanced analytics further solidify his position at the top. As Bowden referenced, Cruz’s OPS+ suggests he was 66% better than the average hitter in 2019. On top of that, take a look at his percentiles in various slugging analytics.


Statistic:Percentile:
Barrel Percentage99th
xwOBA98th
Hard-Hit Percentage99th
Exit Velocity99th
xSlug100th
Nelson Cruz Percentile Statistics for 2019

The deeper you dive the clearer it becomes. Cruz is a no-brainer choice, to top of these rankings. No other player comes close to his well-rounded 2019. Add in his decade of consistency… and I don’t see anyone complaining about his spot on Bowden’s list. 



Hall of Fame Resume…

He’s probably a Cooperstown lock already but hell, why not throw in one or two more stellar seasons just for good measure? He isn’t a first ballot right now, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Who knows, maybe Nelson could get his well-deserved World Series title. Remember, he was as close to World Series glory in 2011, as anyone who hasn’t actually won a title. He and the Rangers were just one out away that fateful night, before something named “Craig” changed everything in one swing.

[Eric’s Editing note: That’s also the night Joe Buck made himself famous by ripping off his father‘s classic 1991 “and we’ll see you tomorrow night” world series call… It was a devastating day for Nelson Cruz and a smear in baseball history thanks to Joe Buck (no surprise).]

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

jkewitsch

Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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