Batter’s Box: Cruzin USA

Everything Dave Cherman thinks you need to know about Thursday's best hitters is right here in the Batter's Box.

This is my first time writing Batter’s Box. I told myself that I was going to write about some obscure player or highlight some lesser-known player with a big night. Maybe it could’ve been a guy with multiple stolen bases or a home run/stolen base combination. Maybe an interesting player making his season/career debut. Newsflash: There should be a couple tomorrow. But unfortunately, I can’t do that. I’m left with no choice but to talk about Nelson Cruz, who dominated with a 3-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2B, BB., giving him six home runs over his past four games, seven over his past six, and eight over his past nine.

Cruz has had another absolutely stellar year in his age-39 season, posting 25 home runs, 49 runs, and 48 RBI to go with a .278/.370/.599 triple slash. Despite Cruz’s peripherals/plate discipline numbers looking basically the same as they always have, his strikeout rate is up to a whopping 27%, the highest mark of his career. Some might look at a contact rate that has fallen 5% over the past five years, but I doubt that would cause such a significant change over one year.

At his pace, were he healthy all year, he’d be shooting for 50 home runs, which I attribute somewhat to the strength of the Twins lineup. Lineup protection is a real thing that he hasn’t had in years, and it has helped his barrel rate climb to an incredible 19.3% barrels per batted-ball event rate. I see no reason why he can’t post his sixth straight 30-home run season. I know he’s hard to own sometimes, given the fact that he’s a UTIL-only player, but man is he fun when he plays.

Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2B, BB. Another phenomenal game from the breakout third baseman, raising his line to .323/.376/.569. He’s on pace for 30/15 and was just taken with the 14th overall pick in the Pitcher List “2020 First Two Rounds” draft. Yeah, he’s been that good.

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)—3-5, 3 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI. And this was away from Coors! Murphy’s bat has really picked up as of late, hitting over .300 with three home runs and 13 RBI over the past month. Fantasy owners definitely want some more pop, but it’s hard to be upset over the rest of his profile.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)—0-4, 2 K. A few weeks back, our own Jake Greenberg wrote about Tatis, expecting regression. However, the average has stayed sky high. Last night was just a bump in the road.

Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-4, 2 R, 2 2B. Buxton batted out of the 9-hole in his return to the lineup from concussion-like symptoms. A 2-4 night should start to ease everyone’s concerns.

Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—1-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Kepler’s breakout season is real. His xStats all look phenomenal, his peripherals are good, and he’s on pace for close to 40 home runs. If that happens, you could sell me on Kepler as a top-50 pick next year.

Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—4-6, 4 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. The Red Sox as a whole put a hurting on the Yankees, and Bogaerts was one of the biggest benefactors. The second was off of Austin Romine, so it doesn’t REALLY count. The other one was off homer-happy Masahiro Tanaka, so some may want to discount it as well, but a two-homer game is a two-homer game and it doesn’t take away from the phenomenal season Bogaerts is having. Since May 3, he’s slashing .335/.415/.623. WHAT.

Danny Santana (1B,2B,OF, Texas Rangers)—3-5, 2 R, 2B, HR, 6 RBI. WHAT YEAR IS IT? Danny Slamtana with another big game for the Rangers, slashing .323/.354/.580 for the year despite entering the night as a .267/.303/.410 hitter. WHAT. Santana had a strong rookie season in 2014, when he hit .319 with 70 runs and 20 stolen bases for the Twins and failed to hit above .240 or slug above .357 since. So what’s changed? Jim Chatterton led off the BB with Santana over a month ago when Jim rightfully called for some regression. So what has he done since? Raise his average by more than 10 points and his slugging by 40. Obviously. I’m calling for the hitter’s equivalent to the Vargas Rule. Ride him until he gives you a reason not to.

Jackie Bradley (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB. There are a bunch of Red Sox here today. That’s to be expected when your team puts up 19 runs. This is nothing to overreact to.

Tim Beckham (2B/3B/SS, Seattle Mariners)—1-5, R, HR, 4 RBI. Beckham has been everything we thought he’d be this year except with more pop. The problem is that the .235 average and .288 OBP will not play outside the deepest leagues. Were he a 20-stolen base threat, maybe things would be different, but he’s got just 13 over his career. The average has been better though as of late, hitting .250 over the past month and .286 over the past two weeks. I know, it’s not really much, but hey, it’s something, right?

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals)—0-4, RBI. The Royals have made it well known that Merrifield is not going anywhere, and he thanked them with an 0-4 day. With the outing, his line sits at .303/.356/.491 with 12 home runs and 15 SBs. He hasn’t come close to maintaining his stolen base pace from the past two seasons, but he’s still been plenty valuable and has been more valuable than expected in the R+RBI departments, on pace for 179, compared with 148 last year and 158 in 2017.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—1-4, HR, 3 RBI, BB. Another day, another solid game from the underrated superstar. Where will he be next season? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up with the Yankees, replacing a traded Miguel Andujar. Anyway, that brings his line to .314/.398/.613 with 22 home runs, and he’s likely to break the 30 mark this year.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Dave Cherman

Across the Seams Manager, also a former player and umpire and Denver-based lawyer who spends his free time studying advanced statistics and obsessing over fantasy trades. Will debate with you about most anything.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Whit Merrifield actually went 1-5 with a BB in the 11th inning and a single in the 14th inning (long game).

  • Avatar Swfcdan says:

    Whit has more than 15 RBIs…when is Chu back anyway? Only kidding, let you off as you’re a newbie.

    T Shaw looks to have figured things out in minors, thinking of buying low in a deep dynasty needing a 2B. How is he going to get regular AB’s though? Some time at 1B too? Good buy low?

    Also thinking of buying Dom Smith in same league needing a 1B now Gallo’s out (ugh). Is what he’s shown fairly legit, and should be continue to be a regular?

    Finally L Urias or B Rodgers, who you rather have going forward in OBP league?

  • Avatar Jim says:

    Was hoping for a Sano blurb. He’s been heating up. Or did I miss one? Perhaps this weekend he’ll give you another chance.

  • Avatar Kyle says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for filling in today for your first ever Batter’s Box! I wanted to give you some praise for not only highlighting the guys who did well last night, but for also highlighting a few guys who didn’t do well. I think too often we only want to look at the guys who are doing really well, and sometimes we can miss the fact that some guys are struggling who we don’t expect to be struggling.

    • Avatar Dave Cherman says:

      Thanks Kyle! If one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the good hitters.

  • Avatar digdeeper says:

    Did the Padres play a hidden doubleheader last night?

  • Avatar Derek says:

    …who are the interesting players making debuts tomorrow??

    • Avatar Dave Cherman says:

      Maybe not debuts but Yasmany Tomas, Travis Shaw, Ian Happ, and Will Smith all got called up yesterday. Smith now even has a path to playing time with Barnes getting demoted. Tyler white also just got dealt to the Dodgers and could get called up for today’s game so some interesting guys to talk about.

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