Nelson Cruz is undoubtedly the Minnesota Twins’ MVP, but he’s putting together an excellent case for American League MVP.
The Minnesota Twins are off to a 15-8 start to the season, putting them on pace for a 106 win season in a typical 162 game season. It’s been largely due to their dominant pitching from aces, Randy Dobnak and Kenta Maeda (Who saw that coming?), and their razor-sharp bullpen (We did see that coming).
It definitely hasn’t been because of the offense, which has lagged behind the pitching significantly. The one exception to that? Nelson Cruz. Cruz has been an absolute masher for the Minnesota Twins this year, and he has managed to hit his way to the front of the team.
We’ve already gone over Byron Buxton‘s defensive value to the team and as the franchise player, but he still hasn’t had as much of an impact as the Twins’ former American League Player of the Week. Because of that, here are three reasons why Nelson Cruz belongs in the MVP conversation:
Reason No. 1: Nelson Cruz is the unquestioned Minnesota Twins’ Offensive MVP
As everyone knows, Buxton is clearly the team’s best defensive player, and it isn’t really close. Cruz is the equivalent on offense. Cruz leads the Minnesota Twins in runs (18), hits (29), homers (8), RBI (23), total bases (57), batting average (.354), slugging percentage (.695), and OPS (1.125).
On top of all that, he’s also tied for first in doubles (4), tied for second in walks (8), and second in OBP (.430). There is no player on the team who means more to the offense than Cruz, and he is the main reason the team has scored on offense.
This gives him a strong course as the Minnesota Twins’ most valuable player, and as we’ll get to, that’s a pretty big deal for MVP contenders, especially considering how good the team has been this season.
Reason No. 2: The Minnesota Twins are one of the League’s Best Teams
The Minnesota Twins currently sit at 15-8, the third best record in the American League. Historically, the MVP award goes to a player who plays for one of the best teams in the league, and almost always to a division champion.
Obviously, Mike Trout stands out as the glaring example, but he is already one of the best players of all time and he’s just turned 29. He has already collected 3 MVP awards, but his Los Angeles Angels never seem to be able to find enough pitching to compete.
This could work out to Cruz’s advantage, as it would help even the playing field, considering Cruz is a DH. No full-time designated hitter has ever won the award (Don Baylor was primarily an outfielder in 1979), but no DH has had a season like Cruz.
Cruz finished ninth in last year’s MVP voting as a full time DH, but here’s a look at his stat line from last season vs. what his stat line would look like for a full season of 2020:
- 2019: 120 G, .311/.392/.639, 81 R, 141 H, 26 2B, 41 HR, 108 RBI, 56 BB-131 K
- 2020: 162 G, .354/.430/.695, 126 R, 204 H, 28 2B, 56 HR, 162 RBI, 56 BB-172 K
Any stat line that looks like that would be a shoo-in for MVP in a normal year, regardless of position. The fact that Cruz plays for one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball is just an added bonus.
Reason No. 3: Nelson Cruz stands out amongst the MLB’s very best.
Cruz’s projected stat line stands out for how good it looks, but it’s important to remember: his current stat line looks just as good compared to his MLB peers. Here’s Cruz’s rankings in the key stat categories in all of the AL:
- Batting Average: 3rd
- Home Runs: 3rd
- RBI: 1st
- Hits: 4th
- On-Base Percentage: 4th
- Slugging Percentage: 3rd
- OPS: 2nd
Leading the MLB in RBI and being in the top four of every single category shows just how good Cruz is. If he can keep this up, he would be the first Twins player to finish with a season in the top 5 of more than three categories since some some guy named Joe Mauer.
The only possible hold-up for a Cruz MVP campaign would be the fact that he doesn’t play defense. Looking at his offensive numbers, however, there’s no way that anyone is currently having a better season, or is more deserving of an MVP, than Nelson Ramon Cruz.