StaTuesday: At 39, Twins’ Cruz keeps powering forward
The Minnesota Twins have bet on a few big bats to help supplement their young core over the last few years.
There was Logan Morrison, signed away from the Tampa Bay Rays, who hit 38 home runs in 2017 then promptly fell off the face of the earth.
C.J. Cron, claimed off waivers from the same, has played like an All-Star since hitting 30 home runs for the first time a season ago.
And then there’s Nelson Cruz, who hit three more home runs over the weekend, two in a win over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday and one in a loss on Sunday.
The venerable “Boomstick,” who turned 39 on Monday, came into his own as a slugger the year after Cron graduated from high school and has been hitting 40 home runs with regularity since Max Kepler — who leads the Twins with 21 — was in Single-A.
A six-time All-Star, Cruz missed out on a seventh nod (for now) after finishing behind fellow designated hitters Hunter Pence and J.D. Martinez in the second round of fan voting.
If not for a nagging wrist injury, he might have run away with that starting spot.
Cruz missed 20 games May 12-June 4 but is hitting .284/.372/.572 with a .945 OPS, 16 home runs and 14 doubles through 57 games. He hit 16 home runs in 57 games last season as well, but has otherwise improved on his 2018 pace across the board.
Nelson Cruz through 57 games, 2018 -> 2019
New York Yankees first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (24 home runs) is the only 35-plus player in the majors with more homers than Cruz.
But he’s not just leading the veterans.
Cruz’s average exit velocity is up to 94.1 mph — which ranks in the top 1% of MLB hitters, and fourth overall — while his hard-hit rate of 51.7% is in the top 2%.
He’s not hitting it quite as far as younger sluggers — Cruz is hitting his home runs 407 feet, on average, just inside the top 100 — but at this rate, “Boomstick” could be mashing well into his 40s.
Statistics via Statcast and Sportradar.