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February 7, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Donnybrook - Carl Crawford

by Rob McQuown and Jason Collette

Even with our expanded fantasy coverage, sometimes there are just too many questions left unanswered. In this series, our fantasy authors will answer a question—whether we come up with it ourselves, or we answer one left by you, the reader—and hopefully help to guide your actions on draft day and throughout the season. Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments, as we will also be discussing our thoughts in there. After all, just because we work together doesn't mean we always agree.

First up, "How will Carl Crawford do in Fenway Park this year?"

Rob McQuown: Before Crawford signed with Boston, I picked him 13th in the USA Today Magazine draft. I was somewhat amazed to see that this was an overdraft according to ADP (average draft position) at the time. My logic was that all the teams rumored to be seriously considering him (and able to afford his services) had high-octane offenses. Well, Boston's about as good as it gets for that. Even with Kevin Youkilis out for half the season and their outfield in almost complete disarray, they were second in runs per game in 2010. In the past, manager Terry Francona had shown no reservations about sending the super-fast Jacoby Ellsbury, so I wasn't worried about a decline in steals. And–of course–there's a 30 foot high “base hit” area in left field, perfect for a spray hitter like Crawford. So, after the signing in Boston, Crawford's ADP has risen, and he's now the 13th player on the ADP list (14.66 ADP).

Strategically placing Crawford's draft value now, I could see his batting average dropping a tick while he works to become more patient, as is the Boston way. But that should also lead to more hard-hit balls (swinging at only better pitches to hit), and more times on base (walks), which could lead to a league-leading runs scored total. I still believe in the old advice of getting speed in the draft/auction, since while steals are somewhat context-dependent, only a small few players have the ability to steal a lot, even if they have the green light all the time. All-in-all, Crawford seems like one of the safer picks this season, and makes for a great pick anywhere from pick 10 onward in most drafts.

Jason ColletteFor his career, Crawford's road OPS is 46 points lower than his home park despite the fact Tropicana Field is at best a neutral ballpark for hitters. The 120 point difference in his career OPS splits is negated by the fact he is essentially trading out facing Jon Lester for facing David Price. He was historically a slow starter with the Rays as six of his eight Aprils were nothing to write home about as he had below average OPS+ in those months. His ball in play data from Tropicana Field mapped out onto Fenway shows two more home runs which would have finally pushed him into a 20 home run season that he has yet to eclipse. 

In a small sample size of 338 PA's, Crawford's career line at The Fens is .275/.301/.406 and he has not homered there since the 2006 season. I am not worried about his SB total dipping any as Francona let Ellsbury run as often as he could stay healthy and I expect more of the same with Crawford since few catchers in the AL East are good at throwing runners out. His ADP rating is about as high as I would take him right now with the caveat we have no idea how he is going to take to playing in cold weather or under the pressure of a massive contract in a market where the fans treat every game like it is a September contest. 

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here
Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

12 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Marc Normandin

I wrote about this a bit over at Red Sox Beacon back when the Sox signed Crawford. I expect him to lose some value in batting average/slugging due to the switch from turf to grass (he's hit .291/.332/.425 on grass in his career), but at the same time, the dimensions of Fenway are friendly.

Rob points out the Green Monster in left, but in right, Crawford, who is not a dead pull hitter, will be able to aim for the triangle and bullpens of Fenway. Picture Crawford, with his speed, putting a ball anywhere near right center. Triples, and maybe an inside-the-park homer or two, galore. He'll replace the slugging lost due to grass by adjusting to his new home, where his swing should already fit.

Feb 07, 2011 09:08 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

His lack of XBH in Fenway over the past 4 seasons is puzzling.

Feb 07, 2011 09:16 AM
 
Marc Normandin

I think a lot of it is sample size, as well as his turf-driven production of the past. Making it his home should change some of that, though we'll see.

Feb 07, 2011 09:49 AM
rating: 0
 
meanwhoogean

I think speed is over valued. For an elite pick (rounds 1-3) Crawfords only elite at one thing. He's not an average guy, and he's not going to score dramatically more runs than other elite player, but he will have a dramtically lower ops, 30 fewer rbi's, 20 fewer homers....unless a league is really valuing hits and sb's I just think he's not worth getting at the price of deflating all power stats. There is this perception he is an elite player who also has speed. He's not. He's a poor mans Kenny Lofton with a little more pop.

Feb 07, 2011 14:25 PM
rating: 1
 
Tuck
(667)

.296 career BA, .306 over the past two seasons (12th among all players isn't elite?) -- obviously he's more than a one-category guy. And the modest power numbers are less of an issue as HR's drop across the board. Of the 76 players who hit more HR's than Crawford, only 18 beat him by ten or more. On the other hand, of those 76, only three were within 20 SB's of Craw. Elite numbers with consistent health (7 of 8 seasons 150+ GP)... what's to complain about?

Feb 07, 2011 15:30 PM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

Actually, 23 beat him by 10 or more. 18 beat him by more than 10.

Feb 07, 2011 15:56 PM
rating: -1
 
meanwhoogean

Good stats, maybe I'm being hard on him. I hate low ops guys, and I've been burned too often reaching on steals guys. I have always felt he gets too much credit for his nominal power, and not enough criticism for his low obp. Obviously he has value, but I'd dray away and go for a Choo or Werth a little later.

Feb 07, 2011 15:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

While I'm with you for building a baseball (or Strat-O-Matic or Scoresheet or DMB or Box Baseball or probably any other sim game) team, in standard 5x5 fantasy baseball scoring, Crawford would have to break a leg (or a rib, Jacoby Ellsbury) to lose his steals value. Since you can earn as many standings points in steals as any of the other 4, and since he's only going to hurt a team in RBI, I have a hard time looking away from that value.

On the other hand, the slower (but not slow) middle-of-order guys (like Werth and Choo and especially Mark Reynolds - 24 SB in 2009) scare me a lot when adding up SB totals, since they are much more likely to have their manager say, "stop running" if they are nursing a minor leg injury. If a "speed guy" isn't 100%, he'll get time off to regain his legs. And along the lines of Tuck's observation, we're not talking about Jose Reyes in terms of regaining and maintaining his health here.

Feb 07, 2011 16:02 PM
 
meanwhoogean

That's a smart way of looking at it, as if you invest in a player like Choo you're drafting him a round earlier on the assumption he will steal 20 bags. My league slants towards power stats, although many of the players seem to ignore this when drafting. It's a head to head league, so maybe I should just ignore steals altogether. Was planning on drafting Choo or Werth early.

Feb 07, 2011 16:20 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

The Red Sox are known for patience, but it's not like the Rays don't emphasize it, too. They led the major leagues in walks last year with 672, while Boston was 5th with 587. The only reason Boston's OBP was higher was because Tampa hit only .247 on the season (the Red Sox were at .268). Anyway, my point is that going from Tampa to Boston is not likely to cause a dramatic increase in Crawford's walk rate, at least not because of an organizational emphasis.

Feb 07, 2011 20:21 PM
rating: 0
 
jwillie

I have to think that Crawford excels here. I think he will feel less pressure to be a the leader of the team, and he will be more relaxed. I think in Tampa all the pressure was on him and Longoria. Now he has a whole team of established studs to take that pressure off.

I think he figure Fenway out very quickly and gets off to a hot start with an uptick in power.

Feb 07, 2011 23:19 PM
rating: -1
 
saint09

Figuring out Fenway... do hitters "adapt" to their parks? Becoming pull happy for a short porch isn't necessarilly good hitting, and creates bad habits. You hit the ball where it's pitched, right?

Yes, waiting on a pitch as long as possible and driving it to the opposite field is good hitting... and will serve CC well as he bangs them off the Monster.

And pressure? Well, the weight of a 140+ million dollar contract carries weight too.

I'm comfortable with Pecota projections for CC, except the Run total feels low. 100+ runs feels right, whether he hits 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

And where he bats in the lineup is an important variable, one we must watch. Once settled, PECOTA adjustments will be forthcoming, correct? Higher runs scored and steals if he's hitting 1 or 2, higher RBI and less steals if he's hitting 3rd.



Feb 08, 2011 19:06 PM
rating: 0
 
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