Coco Crisp was drafted in the seventh round by the Cardinals way back in 1999. He was eventually traded to Cleveland as a player to be named later in a deal for Chuck Finley, and made his major-league debut one week later. Though his awesome name made him somewhat famous before, he really burst on to the scene as a fantasy-relevant player in 2004 when he hit .297 with 15 homers and 20 stolen bases. He would eventually make stops in Boston and Kansas City before finding his current home in Oakland starting in 2010. It was here that he revitalized his career, becoming a legitimate stolen-base threat with a little pop and the potential for high run totals. Two years ago in 2013, he found a hidden power stroke that resulted in his first career 20 home runs season at age 33. This outburst made him a very attractive draft target heading into 2014.
What Went Right in 2014
Not a whole lot went right for Crisp last season, at least relative to the expectations after his big 2013. There were still a couple positives, though. He was much more valuable for those in OBP leagues than standard ones. As he’s gotten older, he’s watched his walk rate consistently rise, and it spiked in a big way up over 12 percent. Pitchers attacked him out of the zone more often in 2014, and Crisp was able to cut down on his swing rate to counter that. So, despite the paltry .246 AVG, he still managed a respectable .336 OBP, making him a top-25 outfielder in that category among those with 400 plate appearances. In addition to the OBP, he also managed to swipe 19 bases. It’s not vintage Crisp, but it’s at least a nice contribution.
What Went Wrong in 2014
Where to begin? A good chunk of Crisp’s disappointments can be explained by nagging neck injuries. Having him on a roster last season was a frustrating experience, as you never knew when he’d be playing. It was never bad enough to cause a DL trip, but it cost him multiple games and affected him while he was on the field. His Baseball Prospectus player page has nine separate entries for neck injuries, all of the day-to-day variety. In a likely related struggle, Crisp’s power surge from 2013 completely fell off as he tallied just nine dingers. Additionally, his average fly ball distance fell substantially from any point previous in his career. Lastly, he didn’t kill right-handed pitching like he’s been able to do in the past. The switch-hitter has always struggled a bit versus lefties, but typically made up for it against righties. Last year he managed just a good-not-great .726 OPS against them.
What to Expect in 2015
Crisp’s stock has fallen substantially since this time last year, as he’s now the 71st outfielder being taken in drafts. That makes him more of a depth piece than a true contributor, and that sounds like a good spot for him. He’ll be 35 this season, so last year is more likely the start of a decline that a blip on the radar. The neck issues aren’t a safe bet to go away, and the power he showed in 2013 is starting to look more and more like an aberration. I’d be expecting more seasons of single-digit home run totals. The AVG should climb back up from the .246 mark a year ago, but don’t expect an elite mark. Something in the .260’s sounds about right. Those in OBP leagues have his growing walk-rate to hand their hat on, making him a legitimate producer there. Although stolen bases have always been his calling card, those have been declining over the years as well. Crisp has been running less and less every year, and it’s hard to expect that trend to reverse for someone of his age. He should be fine as an OF4 or OF5 depending on league size, but there should also be some higher-upside players that can be taken in the same area and carry a similar baseline expectation.
The Great Beyond
You thought things were bleak for 2015? At 35 years old, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Crisp isn’t a great value in dynasty or keeper formats. If you own him, you need be hoping for at least one of two things. The first is, you’re competing this year. He can still be of some help in the stolen base category, and as mentioned above, can help in OBP leagues. If you’re not competing this year and have him on your roster, he’s not going to get a good return right now. The better bet is to hope he gets off to a hot start this year and trade him to an outfielder-needy after a month or two. It’s a risky path, but it could pay off much more than trying to deal him (or just straight cut him) not.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now