I’m still hearing some snickers about my decision to roster Carl Crawford over Troy Tulowitzki with the 7th overall selection in the FSTA Draft that was just held in Las Vegas (for a review of my squad click on the link to Vegas Baby, and the FSTA). I still think it was the right decision, so I thought I would lay out my thoughts on the matter to show why I shouldn’t be castigated by the masses for taken the speedster over the shortstop.
(1) Crawford is as consistent as any performer in the game. Not only is he consistent from year to year, his performance is elite. At Fanball there is a tool called the Player Rater which we use to rank players fantasy value in any given season. Here is a review of where Crawford ranked amongst hitters over the past seven years using the following parameters: a 12-team mixed league using standard 5×5 scoring with 14 hitters, nine pitchers and a $260 salary cap (based on a 67/33 split of spending on hitters and pitchers).
2004: 13th overall, $25.17
2005: 10th overall, $29.44
2006: 6th overall, $31.31
2007: 11th overall, $29.03
2008: 104th overall, $8.77 (he was limited to just 109 games played)
2009: 4th overall, $33.58
2010: 3rd overall, $37.86
You can click on the following link to find the actual Player Rater Tool.
Honestly, I almost feel like I can end the debate on who I should have taken 7th overall with just those numbers. It’s alright if you admit that you are shocked by those totals by the way. Since 2004, I defy you to find a more consistently excellent player than Crawford (other than Albert Pujols of course). In his last six healthy seasons, Crawford has been no worse than the 13th best offensive performer in the fantasy game. Moreover, if we remove his injury shortened 2008 effort we find that his average “finish” in his last six healthy seasons is 7.8. What pick did I take Crawford again? Oh yeah, #7.
(2) Crawford will be a part of an excellent offense in Boston. It’s not like Crawford’s teammates in Florida were terrible by any means, but the Red Sox work pitchers about as hard as any offense in baseball. Plus, Crawford should love slapping balls off the Green Monster which means we should set the floor at .300 for his average. After all, Fenway was the best park in the American League last year in terms of hitting doubles according to Bill James’ Park Indices (it was 22% above “average” in the category).
(3) Speed kills. Crawford is pretty much a mortal lock for 45 steals having hit that mark in each of the seven seasons in his career in which he played at least 140 games. If he can stay healthy you can book the steals. Unlike others who slap the ball around the field and run like the dickens (guys like Juan Pierre, Brett Gardner, Rajai Davis and Michael Bourn - the only men in the game who exceeded or matched Crawford’s steal total of 47 in 2010), Crawford also has some pop. He’s never hit 20 homers but he has averaged 15 homers a season his last five healthy years. Last year Pierre, Gardner, Davis and Bourn hit a combined 13 homers.
(4) I know Tulowitzki plays shortstop, and there is something to be said for position scarcity, but his track record isn’t enough to prove to me that he deserves to be a top-10 option – despite the generally prevailing wisdom that says he not only should be a top-10 guy but that he could even be a top-5 overall option. Consider the following points.
(A) Twice in the last three seasons Tulowitzki has failed to play even 125 games. Remember, only once in eight years has Crawford failed to appear in 140 games.
(B) As talented as Tulowitzki is, I worry a bit about his performance. The last two seasons Tulo has produced line drive rates of 18.4 and 15.0 percent. The big league average is about 19-20 percent. I’m not saying Tulowitzki won’t continue to hit around .300, but there aren’t many guys in the game that hit .300 with line drive rates that low.
(C) Tulo doesn’t strike out too much, his career K-rate is 19.1 percent, but he also doesn’t walk too much either (9.5 percent BB-rate). Again, this isn’t a condemnation of Tulo, but a 0.56 BB/K mark for his career isn’t terrific. A little more patience at the dish would serve him well.
(D) As great as Tulo was last year to end the season when he hit .323 with 18 homers and 61 RBI over his last 60 games, he was merely really good over his first 62 games (.306-9-34). Are you certain he isn’t the first half guy? There is nothing wrong with a .300-20-80 season from a shortstop, but you don’t draft a guy in the top-10 is those are the numbers you expect.
To me, the decision to take Crawford over Tulowitzki was a no brainer. You can talk position scarcity all you want with Tulo, and it is certainly a valid point, but I would counter that with Crawford’s consistently excellent stolen base marks. I’d also fall back on the main point I made at the start of this piece – Carl Crawford has been an elite performer in six of the past seven seasons, and when I say elite there is no hyperbole involved. Tulo may one day get to that level, but for now this battle royale between Crawford and Tulowitzki ends with CC scoring a knockout in the 7th round.
By Ray Flowers