Carl Crawford averaged 50 stolen bases per season from 2003-2010, with 55 or more in a season five times over that span, and if not for an injury-shortened 2008 season that saw him steal 25 bases those numbers would have been even better. He also had more than 50 RBI in all eight of those seasons, with at least a .280 batting average seven times and double-digit home runs six times over that stretch, so Crawford was a multi-category contributor and a key cog in the success of a lot of fantasy baseball owners during his prime with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Crawford then signed a big contract with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2011 season, and struggled under the burden of big expectations in his one fully healthy season with the Red Sox (.255, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, 18 stolen bases). He was then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the 2012 season, and battled hamstring and back issues on his way to a slash-line of .283/.329/.407 with six home runs, 31 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 116 games (469 plate appearances) last season.
Crawford has said more than once that he wants to steal more bases in 2014, but should fantasy owners buy-in to the hype?
Crawford has already missed time this spring with a quad issue, but it’s not thought to be a significant injury. However, it is a reminder that he will turn 33 in August, and nagging injuries are unlikely to just go away at this point in his career. His batting average rebound in 2013 was driven by a continued resurgence in his contact rate (85 percent) and hitting more line drives (23 percent), after a low point in his contact rate in 2011 (79 percent), and there’s no reason to not expect more of the same this year.
Crawford’s strong postseason last year (.310, four home runs, six RBI) may be fresh in the mind of some fantasy owners, even though that production didn’t help anyone win their league, and name recognition based on his past production may cause Crawford to still be overvalued a bit in mixed league drafts.
Even allowing for the likelihood of a stint or two on the disabled list, a projection of double-digit home runs, 20-25 stolen bases and 75 runs scored along with a .280 batting average is realistic for Crawford in 2014. At the right price in drafts and auctions, after the top 20 or 25 outfielders are gone, there’s profit potential here for fantasy owners that maintain reasonable expectations.