The All Star rosters were announced last week, and the Twins, deservedly, given their record, were slotted with only one player: Nelson Cruz. Perhaps if Byron Buxton were healthy, he would have earned a spot as well, or there could be a case made for Jose Berrios, who is having his best season of his career. Truly though, Cruz is the bright spot for this Twins team.
He’s been the bright spot in more ways than one, actually, and not just for this season. In 2021, on the field, however, he has been better than could be reasonably hoped for from a 41 year old slugger. He has 18 home runs and is batting nearly .300. This works out to an OPS+ of 157, meaning he is 57% better than the average player at the plate. He was better the last two seasons, and there are certainly few other options on the Twins roster this year, but at the same time, it’s impossible to say that he is undeserving.
Cruz has also been a focal point for the past resurgence of the Twins. He’s acted as a leader in the clubhouse and a mentor for many young players, Miguel Sano in particular. Sure, some of that seems to have worn off now, or so it seems as we watch Sano struggle, but when Cruz first arrived, so did Sano’s bat.
This season in particular, there has been a lot of reflection on Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure in Minnesota, with some fans beginning to turn on the duo. The bright spot for the two has been the signing of Nelson Cruz. He’s provided almost the entirety of the value of free agents that the two have acquired in their time with the Twins. This reflects well on Cruz, but also the futility of signing free agents and hoping to build around them.
It’s too bad that Cruz is going to move on by the end of the month, because he was such a positive, wise influence for the team. It’s fun to watch him drop bombs, and it will be fun to watch him do it again in the postseason, even if it is with another organization.