Happy and healthy new year to everyone. Speaking of healthy, this marks the return of the weekly Fantasy Baseball Injury Report for Fantasy Alarm. Pitchers and catchers are set to report within a month and the World Baseball Classic is also around the corner. Now is the time to start preparing for your upcoming drafts or making decisions on which players you want to keep in dynasty leagues. Some of these decisions are no-brainers, but others are a little trickier. For the next several weeks, I will be profiling players who were injured for a majority of 2012 and will likely be making a comeback at some point in 2013. So without further adieu, here is the first installment of the Walking Wounded for the 2013 fantasy baseball season.
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Player Profile: Carl Crawford (OF-LAD)
There are certain baseball players that are quite polarizing when it comes to discussions about their value in fantasy baseball. Carl Crawford happens to be one of them. He has always been considered a rotisserie darling because of his propensity for a .300 batting average along with high stolen base totals. In true contract year form, he had a terrific season in 2010 before departing Tampa Bay for an insanely lucrative free agent deal with the Boston Red Sox. Needless to say, it has been all downhill from there.
Let’s be honest, Crawford was good for stolen bases. That’s about it. Sure he is a career .292 hitter, but he has never done better than .315 in 2007. Yes he can score runs, but he has only topped 100 for a season three times maxing out at 110 in 2010. But between 2003-2007, he led the American League in stolen bases four times. He then set a career high with 60 stolen bases in 2009. That is where his value was, yet fantasy baseball players and pundits all revered Crawford as an upper-echelon outfield option. I have disagreed with that opinion for several years.
In 2013, Crawford will turn 32 years old. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to surmise that players who rely on their legs and speed will have declining skills and abilities as they get older (unless they are using PED’s which has never been suspected of Crawford). Irrespective of his ability to steal bases, the fact is that Crawford is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Since he is not a pitcher, his recovery time and healing process is slightly quicker. But we all know players need their arms and elbows to swing a bat, and it remains to be seen whether this injury will have any lingering effects on him.
Crawford has never become a power hitter as his career high in homeruns is only 19 which he achieved in 2010. That same year he also peaked in runs batted in with 90. Now coming off a major surgery to his throwing arm, it is reasonable not to expect any type of power surge at this point in his career. And because the operation was on his throwing arm, it is probable that Crawford will be given sporadic days off to rest.
So what does all of this mean for Crawford’s fantasy value in 2013? For starters, it is hard to imagine things getting much worse than they were in 2011 and 2012. He was traded last year to Los Angeles, so he is going to get every opportunity to justify his exorbitant contract that was absorbed by the Dodgers new ownership.
Now that he has been medically cleared to resume baseball activities, all indications are that he will be ready for spring training and Opening Day. It can’t be denied that Crawford will be hitting in a potent lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. If all goes well, Crawford could easily score over 100 runs leading off in that lineup. But with so many big bangers hitting behind him, it is likely that his stolen base attempts will be scaled back.
As you prepare for your fantasy baseball drafts, you should keep Crawford on your radar as, dare I say it, a sleeper. It is hard to imagine referring to a veteran player with a $140,000,000 contract a sleeper, but in this case I think it is appropriate. Crawford, once regarded as a first round pick in many roto leagues, has likely fallen off people’s radar especially due to his arm injury. But if you can grab him later in the draft as a second or third outfielder, you will likely be pleasantly surprised. Under no circumstances should Crawford be revered as an OF1, but his peripheral stats justify him as an OF2 or OF3.
Be warned not to overspend or draft him too early. There is a finite and limited value that Crawford can bring to your fantasy team. If someone else wants to overspend on him, then let them do that. There are plenty of other players available that can give you a decent batting average with some runs scored and stolen bases. Remember, you need to pay for what to expect and not what once was.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free reach me at email@example.com or on Twitter (@FantasyJudgment).
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