Many fantasy players have expected Nelson Cruz, who turned 36 in July, to lose power. Keep waiting: He topped 40 home runs for the third straight season. Considering his infield flyball rate was his lowest since 2012, he's getting plenty out of his hits in the air. Proving age ain't nothing but a number, he ranked third with a 26.2 percent HR/FB (none below 20.4 since 2012) and second in average exit velocity (96.2 mph, per MLB Statcast). His hard contact and high walk rates say his recent batting averages look real, but his age and batted-ball splits say to be more realistic with something closer to his .275 career clip. Safeco Field hasn't hurt him; he's hit 17 homers at home in each of the last two years, and 15 in 2014. Fantasy players drafting him solely for power won't be disappointed with expectations of 30 homers. The vet still has tools for a top-50 fantasy season, but lower his floor a bit with another year gone.
Cruz, who will try to help the Mariners break their 15-year postseason drought in 2017, is highly optimistic about the coming season, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. "I think we're more ready," the 36-year-old designated hitter said. "If you go from Kyle [Seager] to all the young guys that were here, guys that haven't been in the playoffs, the last week and a half last year was very exciting. Every at-bat was important, every pitch was important. But we came up short. So we need to make sure this year we're on top and clinch early." The veteran slugger has a full schedule, considering he'll also be helping Team Dominican Republic defend its World Baseball Classic title alongside Mariners teammate Robinson Cano next month. Cruz's main focus is on his major league squad, however, as he attempts to help Seattle break its dubious streak of missing the postseason. Following an impressive 2016 campaign that saw him post a .287/.360/.555 line with 43 homers and 105 RBI, Cruz didn't rest on his laurels in the offseason, toiling away at the gym and checking in to spring training five pounds lighter than at the end of last season. With Seattle just missing an AL wild-card berth in 2016, Cruz is hopeful that the experience of competing late in the season, along with the flurry of offseason moves by general manager Jerry DiPoto, will be enough to propel the Mariners to the next level. "Now hopefully we can stay healthy. We should be in good shape. We should be at the top of the division."
Cruz will suit up for Team Dominican in this year's WBC, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. The veteran slugger will join teammate Robinson Cano as three-time participants in the tournament, with both having also been part of the 2009 and 2013 editions. Cruz is coming off his second 100-RBI season in the last three campaigns, and also eclipsed the 40-homer mark for the third consecutive season in 2016. He'll join a talent-laden roster on Team USA that will also feature the Orioles' Adam Jones, the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and Marlins teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich as outfield options for manager Jim Leyland.
Cruz is out of the lineup Sunday against the A's, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Cruz has been unstoppable at the plate recently. Over the last seven games, he's posted an incredible .345/.406/.759 line and hit four home runs. However, he'll head to the bench Sunday while Robinson Cano serves as Seattle's DH.
Cruz had two hits Friday, including his 42nd homer of the season, as the Mariners kept their playoff hopes alive with a win against the A's. Cruz aggravated a sore wrist earlier this week, but has three multi-hit games since. Cruz has crushed it in September (1.053 OPS), but he's been on a tear his last eight games with six multi-hit games, five home runs, two doubles and 11 RBI. He is two homers from his career-high 44.
Cruz was removed from Sunday's game against the Mariners in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent left wrist soreness, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Cruz hit a pair of solo home runs in his first three at-bats of the game to boost his total to 41 for the season, but he appeared to hurt his hand on the second of the two blasts. Seth Smith entered the game to pinch hit for Cruz, who will be listed as day-to-day heading into the Mariners' series with the Astros that begins Monday.