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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

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The Week in Quotes: Ja... (02/07)
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The Payoff Pitch: Whos... (02/07)

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