Cruz joined a Twins club flush with young talent, a group that was ready to take the next step. They were missing exactly what he is: an established veteran leader who could guide them in their quest to win. To say Cruz accomplished that in Minnesota would be an understatement.
It wasn’t long before the home crowd at Target Field erupted every time Nelly came to the plate. He became the man, the face of the exceptional 2019 offense that hit the most home runs in MLB history.
But it was more than the unbelievable production out of the three spot in the lineup; Nelly set the tone. His calm, cool approach fit in seamlessly with Rocco Baldelli’s mantra, and the Twins thrived behind his leadership.
Not only did Cruz undoubtedly elevate his teammates, he just had the best offensive season of his storied career.
Cruz hit a remarkable .311/.392/.639 with 41 homers and 26 doubles in his first 120 games as a Twin. Nelly finished in the top-10 for A.L. MVP and won his third Silver Slugger. It was a top-10 offensive season in Twins history.
Cruz became a staple in the Minnesota sports scene, named as the Star Tribune’s Sportsperson of the Year. His value was immeasurable, and the Twins picked up his $12 million option for 2020 less than a week after elimination.
In addition to his excellence in the batter’s box, Cruz is known for his incredible work in the community. Nelly won the esteemed Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award in 2020 for his exceptional leadership for the Boomstick23 Foundation.
Cruz once again led the Twins’ offense in his second season in Minnesota, hitting .303 with a .992 OPS and this time finishing sixth in A.L. MVP voting. He drove in the only two runs the Twins scored in the postseason. He won his second straight Silver Slugger Award.
His production will be missed in the heart of the Twins’ order. More than anything, though, the person is who left the biggest impact.
Thank you, Nelson Cruz!
Read more on the trade.