Seattle Mariners Season Preview: Nelson Cruz


Nelson Cruz already proved that he could make the adjustment to pitcher friendly Safeco Field, so 2016 should still see at least a 30 home run campaign.

Last season Nelson Cruz was the most exciting part of the Seattle Mariners lineup. He signed a 4-year contract last offseason coming off a career year with the Baltimore Orioles. Amongst the heavy criticism that he could never replicate the 40 home run feat that he accomplished in 2014, he absolutely crushed (figuratively and literally) all expectations. 

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One interesting question about Nelson in the upcoming Mariners season will revolve around how much time he’ll spend playing in the outfield. Cruz slashed .263/.333/.450 with a 116 wRC+ in 73 games last season as the designated hitter . In 80 games in right field he posted a crazy line of .337/.402/.670 with a 196 wRC+. However Dipoto made a point in the offseason to acquire Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin and Boog Powell, as well as retaining Franklin Gutierrez, so you would think Nelson would be the odd man out in that equation. Although his numbers in right field last year proved better, the question is always what will benefit the club the most versus a player’s preferences. Outfield or not, I still cannot wait to see 2016 Nelson Cruz and his eyebrows out there swinging.  

The Good 

Nelson will be 36 years old in July, but he is showing no signs of slowing down. Nelson had the best wOBA of his career in 2015 at .396, but that among many other offensive stats have continued to increase every year since 2013. He also matched a career high ISO at .264 and all his overall offensive heroics aided greatly from a career high BABIP at .350.

As duly noted this whole offseason, there were only a few shining moments for the Mariners in 2015, and Nelson Cruz was responsible for a great majority of them. He was responsible for many magical moments including this one, this one or uh… and this one.  I’ll stop there, but you get the point. He caught lighting in a bottle last season, and should be a key contributor once again in 2016. He also throws trash on people as a celebration, what a guy.

The Bad 

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Nelson Cruz is 35 going to turn 36 in the middle of the season. We all know the pitfalls of an aging power guy, and those are usually not pretty. Another thing that 2015 seems to mercilessly leave out was Nelson’s injury history. The last two or three seasons have actually been mostly without any significant time lost due to injury (he played 159 games in 2014 & 152 in 2015), but leg issues don’t just go away. Especially not with age.

The Future 

No matter how much we as fans want to hold on to the 44 homerun hitting, .566 slugging Nelson Cruz, we will have to factor in usual age related drop off. As much as I strive to be a numbers oriented kinda gal, this piece explains all the positives that will come from him in 2016 better than I ever could. Essentially it says that Cruz is still going to be good for at least the next two years or so and gives the numbers and the trends to prove it.

Next: Seattle Mariners Season Preview: Nori Aoki

Before the 2015 season Fangraphs wrote this about our beloved Nellie, “A move to Seattle will certainly hurt his power numbers, but he wasn’t going to hit 40 homers in 2015 regardless of his situation….Look for Cruz to hit between 20 and 25 homers while batting .250 or .260 in the middle of Seattle’s lineup.” Of course we all know that predictions are usually just a way to pass the time in the offseason, and these were off the mark. This season’s predictions are showing him losing all kinds of power in terms OPS and ISO rankings. I can’t wait for him to prove everyone wrong… Again. Go Mariners.