4. Nelson Cruz won’t top 30 home runs. Not so bold? Sure, but the M’s handed him a 4-year, $57 million dollar contract coming off the only 40 homer season of his career. Context, people, context.
Nelson Cruz’s power is self-evident. Mr. Boomstick can mash, for sure, but welcome to Safeco Field, where power strokes go to die more surely than PETCO Park. While Cano is a much more dynamic hitter than Cruz, before last season, Cano had not hit as few as 14 home runs since 2008 (his age 25 season, so his power could be seen as still developing). Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre saw their long ball numbers shrink like there was a minor shortage of Viagra while playing their home games in Seattle.
During parts of ten major league seasons, Cruz has made around 90% of his at bats for the Texas Rangers, AL West division rivals of the Mariners. He has 184 career at bats at Safeco, with a slash line of .234/.309/.440 that works out to a .749 OPS and 9 homers. Nine. Since that is just about a third of a season, I can only agree with a ZiPS projection of 29 home runs this year as a ceiling for Cruz. I do think, however, that his reputation will help even out the lineup and create better opportunities for Cano, Kyle Seager, and a burgeoning star in power-hitting catcher Mike Zunino (as long as Zunino can hit over .230).