(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)
When Carl Crawford’s tenure in Boston came to a merciful end with his trade to the Dodgers last August, it wasn’t Red Sox fans that let out the biggest sigh of relief-- no, it was Carl Crawford himself.
The former Rays star never recovered from his Boston debut that saw him post a horrendous .155/.204/.227 triple-slash in the opening month; he was also just a poor fit in Beantown’s hyper-intense media environment. He later admitted that an early demotion to the seventh spot in the Red Sox lineup affected his confidence, and the team’s toxic clubhouse only exacerbated his problems. Finally, a wrist injury cascaded up the left arm and carried into 2012, culminating in Tommy John surgery last August.
In his prime, Crawford was an elite, five-category, boxscore-filling fantasy option. And some of that upside still resides within him. But at the time of his injury last year, his walk rate and stolen base rate were both in decline. In 2011 Crawford walked in just 4.3% of his plate appearances, and that number plunged to an alarmingly poor 2.4% in his injury-shortened 2012. There was legitimate concern over the pounding his legs had taken in nine seasons on the Tropicana Field carpet, and with the Red Sox he stole only 23 bags in 161 games, a far cry from the player who averaged nearly 54 SB per 162 games-played with the Rays. Though Crawford missed significant time in 2011 after straining his hamstring in June, he had stolen only eight bases in 67 games to that point in the season-- a substantial drop-off from the standard he had set in Tampa.
Crawford was never a guy who walked much with Tampa Bay, but he was able to mitigate that with
strong contact skills and speed-aided batting averages. The $142 million dollar question, then, is what type of value will Crawford provide if the speed that helped him to wreak havoc on the basepaths has diminished and he’s not walking at even a below-average rate? To get a feel for what that’s like, RotoBaller says to look no further than his Boston composite: .260/.292/.419. Not good. While his numbers probably won't be that bad going forward, his ability to produce consistently is a huge question mark - and that upside we all used to love has been severely tainted.
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 7
(scores are from 1 - 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .284/14/68/95/32
RotoBaller's Target Draft Rounds: Rounds 11-12
With a current ADP of about 150, Crawford isn't going to cost you too much on draft day. That's definitely a plus. But it's very difficult to trust Crawford right now, based on the last 2 years of injuries and minimal production. If you look hard enough you’ll surely find some pundits touting Crawford’s ability to fully bounce back. And while he still certainly has talent and some upside, the safe bet here is that his days as an elite fantasy weapon are behind him. In the best-case scenario, he likely provides a .275-.285 batting average, 12-15 HR, 25-35 SB, and decent Runs / RBIs. That has value in many formats, but don’t fall in love with the past and reach too far. Crawford should be targeted as no more than a third outfielder, and can provide draft day profits if he starts producing again consistently. But make sure any glaring holes on your roster have been addressed before rolling the dice. Also, the recent news of a “mild setback” with his surgically repaired left arm should only underscore the importance of rostering a competent fourth outfielder in case Crawford’s injury woes continue.
Be sure to also check out RotoBaller's full 2013 Outfield Rankings with ADP Comparison.