One of the players people had questions after the OF Rankings were posted was Carl Crawford, and rightfully so. Here is a player that in years prior has been considered a borderline first round pick. Last year he struggled with injuries, tumbling down draft boards a bit as we head into 2009. Let’s take a look at his numbers:
443 At Bats
.273 Batting Average (121 Hits)
8 Home Runs
25 Stolen Bases
.319 On Base Percentage
.400 Slugging Percentage
.301 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The first thing to discuss is the stolen bases. After stealing at least 46 bases each of the 5 previous seasons (4 of those at 50 or above), he just wasn’t running as much as in years past. At 27 years old, did he simply lose his speed? Come on, I’m not buying it. A drop in OBP (which goes with the decrease in average I’m going to touch on in a minute) obviously played a role in the number of chances he had to run.
I know, the doubles were down as well (he had only 12, compared to 37 the prior year), but he was still able to manage 10 triples. It’s an oddity for sure, but one that I just can’t see being accurate. He should essentially just be entering his prime, so for me to assume that he’s not going to be able to rebound would be a costly error. I’m not going to sit here and project him out to return to 50 SB, but I would be surprised if he didn’t get back to the 38-42 range.
You can point to the hand injury that virtually ended his season on August 9 (he did appear in 2 games in September, but didn’t have an AB), which cost him the majority of the second half. Yes, that contributes to his lower numbers on the base paths, but not too his struggles in general.
A bit of bad luck was the major culprit. His career BABIP is .330, so to see him come up at .301 was a big surprise. He hadn’t been below .326 since making his major league debut in 2002 (he was at .301 that season). He makes good contact, with a career K% of 14.9%, so decreased luck certainly plays a heavy role in his average. It is pretty safe to expect a bounce back there, putting him in the vicinity of a .300 average, though possibly just shy of it.
Surprisingly, Crawford has never been one to score a ton of runs, though you could easily reason that prior to 2008, hitting towards the top of the Rays line-up was far from an enviable position. From 2004-2007, he had been between 89 and 104, a solid number for sure, just not quite as high as you’d hope. A player with his speed, you’re looking for one of the elite. He’s not going to be that, even with a much improved supporting cast around him. He’s just never shown it.
This season he’ll have Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell among the bats looking to drive him in, so assuming he rebounds in the OBP/AVG department, he should safely return to the range he’s already set for himself.
So, let’s take a look at what I’d project him for in ’09:
.297 (172-580), 13 HR, 71 RBI, 92 R, 42 SB, .327 BABIP, .341 OBP, .457 SLG
Basically, I’m expecting nothing less then what Crawford had been prior to last season. He has too good of a track record to think that at his age he has simply hit his ceiling and is going to continue to decline. Last seasons problems were due to some bad luck, hurting his opportunity to steal a base. I’m very comfortable drafting him in all formats and look for him to re-emerge as a solid option for all fantasy owners.
What do you think? Are you willing to draft him this season or do you think he’s on the downturn of his career?
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.