Carl Crawford was once one of the best young outfielders in all of baseball, as he led the American League in stolen bases four times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) and was a four-time All-Star (2004, 2007, 2009, 2010) during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays. But since signing a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2011 season, his career has taken a downturn and he has fallen off the radar of fantasy baseball owners.
Crawford was reasonably healthy during his first season in Boston, but he did not produce at his previous level, hitting just .255 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and 18 stolen bases over 539 plate appearances. Things got worse in 2012, when his recovery from off-season wrist surgery did not progress well early in the season and he eventually had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He was one of the players the Red Sox sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers last August, despite having his elbow surgery just prior to that point, but it’s safe to say a change of scenery can’t hurt him.
So can fantasy owners expect a rebound season from Crawford in 2013?
Crawford has reportedly ramped up his throwing program a bit and has been hitting off a tee as he works his way back to full health. He hopes to be able to face live pitching soon, and has conveyed confidence that he will be ready for the start of the season. As long as he continues to avoid setbacks with the elbow, Crawford should be ready to be the Dodgers’ Opening Day left fielder and occupy a spot near the top of the batting order.
Crawford is still just 31 years old, so he is still in his prime, and he did hit well (.306 batting average in August) prior to being shut down last season. He did not run as much though, with just five stolen bases in 31 games, but that can be partially blamed on the fact he was not 100 percent healthy virtually all season.
A return to full health makes Crawford an intriguing fantasy option, as he would be a table setter for a middle of the lineup that includes Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier. Durability concerns and essentially two straight lost seasons will certainly drive his draft day price down, but if he has upside in terms of stolen bases and runs scored if he can be healthy. If Crawford can return to somewhere close to his pre-big contract production level, with at least a .280 batting average and 46 stolen bases in seven of eight seasons from 2003-2010, any fantasy owner that uses a late draft pick on him will be happy with that investment.
Here is my projection for Crawford in 2013, assuming he is ready to go on Opening Day.
Batting Average- .285
Home Runs- 9
Runs Scored- 80
Stolen Bases- 30
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.