Much like Adam Lind, Nelson Cruz destroyed his AAAA label in 2009 (33 HRs and 20 SBs). Sure he smokes the ball, everyone knows that. What has held him back (and in the minors) until his age 28 season was his inability to make contact. He has 265 Ks in 1,019 major league at bats, so every four times up, he is sent back to the dugout without putting the ball in fair territory. Another red flag is that, down the stretch last year, he saw fewer and fewer fastballs, which saw his contact rate drop to about 68 percent. In addition, his batting average dropped in the second half and his K-rate rose to about 30 percent (it was about 21 percent in the first half). There is no doubt he has 40 HR potential, but will he do so without crippling your team’s batting average? Cruz is also no spring chicken (he turns 30 in 2010), so he is closer to ending his prime than being in the midst of it.
Denard Span is a bit younger (he’ll be 26 shortly), yet he has 70 more major league ABs than Cruz. In those ABs, Span has hit .305 with a .390 OBP. He’ll never have great power numbers (if he hits double digits, you’ll be lucky), but he is a pretty sure bet for 20+ steals. For what it’s worth, while Cruz did poorly down the stretch, Span actually had a much better second half (.331 AVE and .402 OBP). If he can continue to get on base, he’ll be a cheap source of ratio insurance, will score 100 runs or so and steal 20 bags. It’s not bad for someone who is only 26.
Nyjer Morgan turns 30 one day after Cruz does. However, if Morgan can get on base, the Nationals will let him run. I think his 2009 42 stolen bases total is the floor for him. When Morgan joined the Nationals, he stole 24 bases in just 49 games. That is crazy. Of course this was helped by hitting .351 and posting a .396 OBP during those games – those numbers will not be matched. However, he does have a career .362 OBP in the majors and .370 in the minors. So he can get on base. And when he does, the Nats are going to let him run. He might be able to push Ellsbury for the MLB stolen base crown. I’m more comfortable with Morgan being able to dominate SBs than Cruz HRs.
That said, I’m actually going to keep Denard Span. He’s approaching his prime (not at the end of it), which is a pretty big deal. Most likely Span’s best seasons are to come, while there is less upside with Cruz and Morgan. Furthermore, there are considerable red flags with Cruz to make a long-term bet risky. I’d still trade Cruz, because he has more perceived value than Morgan. However, I’d rather have Morgan than Cruz this season and over the next few.
Keep: Denard Span
Trade: Nelson Cruz
Drop: Nyjer Morgan
Reading this column guarantees that you will achieve fabulous wealth and success in your fantasy baseball league. That’s right, you guessed it: it’s time to debate Keep Trade or Drop (KTD).
While there are tons of player rankings available, they are all for 2010 and nothing more. So, if you are drafting in a start-up keeper league, how do you decide who to take? For example, if they’re both on the board, do you go for tried and true Carl Crawford, or do you roll the dice (but only barely) and select the slightly less proven Justin Upton. Read enough of these columns and you might just get your answer.
The KTD series focuses solely on giving keeper league advice. It poses the question: if you are in a keeper league, which player would you rather keep, which would you rather trade and which would you be forced to drop. Rarely is the decision easy to make, but it might just decide whether you compete and win your championship, not just this year, but for years down the road as well. It will also help you make a snap decision when three similar players are on the board and the clock is ticking.