It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Nelson Cruz's RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 17 overall by Kyle Bishop, and No. 33 by Harris Yudin.
Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Nelson Cruz
Kyle Bishop's Rankings Analysis
His Overall Ranking: 17
For all the talk about how the recent league-wide power surge has made pop a less valuable fantasy commodity, Cruz is the only player to hit 40 homers in each of the last three seasons. Apart from Nolan Arenado, nobody else has done it more than once. Cruz has also averaged 91 runs scored, 102 RBI, and batted .286 during this span, while playing 466 of a possible 486 games. Stellar four-category production plus durability? That's definitely the kind of guy who deserves early-round consideration.
Cruz will be 37 this season, but he's shown no signs of slowing down. Just the opposite, in fact. His batted ball data over the last few years basically all compare favorably to his career averages. He continues to be one of the best fastball hitters in the game, and doesn't show weakness against any pitch type.
Entrenched in the cleanup spot of what should be a formidable Mariners lineup, Cruz will continue to be an elite fantasy asset.
Harris Yudin's Rankings Analysis
His Overall Ranking: 33
Cruz has smacked 40 homers in three consecutive years, leading the majors over that span by a decent margin. In that stretch, only Mike Trout, Edwin Encarnacion, Nolan Arenado and Josh Donaldson have mustered similar overall stat lines.
However, the soon-to-be 37-year-old could experience a slight regression in 2017— it’s only natural. Only one player in the history of baseball — a man by the name of Babe Ruth — has managed at least 40 homers in each of his age-33 to age-36 seasons. Cruz’s peripherals generally back up his late-season power surge, but at a certain point, his bat speed is likely to diminish. While he does remain among the league’s best at hitting fastballs, his wFB has dropped from 31.9 in 2014, to 27.5 in 2015, to 25.7 a year ago.
Additionally, in an outfield pool loaded with power hitters — many of whom also run — there’s not a huge margin for error in terms of Cruz’ fantasy value. If he takes just a minor step back in homers and and batting average, he becomes Yoenis Cespedes— an extremely talented player, but one whom none of RotoBaller’s rankers have placed in the top 25.
Even at 33 overall, the veteran slugger remains incredibly valuable to all mixed-league rosters. But top 20 seems a bit steep at this point.