Forever immortalized for his role in helping the Red Sox to the World Series championship, Coco Crisp has been a hot topic this offseason before he settled on an unexpected return to the Athletics (Buster Olney is reporting it’s a 2-year deal for $14 million). The question we must consider in the fantasy game is how heavily do we want to lean on an outfielder who is 32 years old who last appeared in 140 games during the 2007 season.
Let’s start the analysis by focusing on the last line in the previous paragraph. Crisp hasn’t been able to stay healthy in the recent past. Not only has it been five years since he’s appeared in 140 games, it’s actually much worse than that. Sure Crisp appeared in 136 games for the Athletics last season, but in the previous two seasons he appeared in 49 and 75 games. Moreover, over his last four seasons he’s averaged just 95 games played per season or less than two thirds of a full season. To put that number into perspective the perpetually injured J.D. Drew has averaged 117 games played the past four years. Obviously you have to know that rostering Crisp comes with substantial risk because even if he performs well. He’s not someone you can count on playing every day.
Crisp also isn’t a very good hitter. The owner of a career .275 batting average, Crisp has failed to reach that level in four of the past six seasons. Given that his batting average is barely better than the league batting mark, it would be a great thing if he had a lot of power. However, he’s got about as much power as an 18 year old prom queen. Crisp has a career best of 16 homers, though that was a lifetime ago in 2005. Since that point he’s played six seasons and not a single time has he hit more than eight homers. Obviously it stands to reason that he’s not much of a run producer either, and the record bears that out. Crisp hasn’t had even 60 RBI in any of the last four seasons, and five times in the last six years he’s failed to reach that total. Does he score a bushel of runs? Think again. Crisp has scored more than 80 runs twice, but the last time he did that was 2007, as injuries simply preclude him from being on the field enough to rack up the counting numbers. Over the past four years the fleet of foot outfielder has averaged a mere 51 runs scored per season. That’s terrible. Crisp also owns a .330 OBP for his career, which is league average. The last time he posted an OBP of .350 was — well never since his career best mark was .345 in 2005.
So Crisp is league average in batting average and OBP, is a terrible power hitter, rarely knocks runners in, and doesn’t score as many runs as he should since he is always in an out of the lineup.
So why even other with him? It’s all about the speed with Crisp as his wheels are the only thing that gives him any value in the fantasy game. Oddly, Crisp has become a more prolific base stealer as he has aged. From 2003-2009 Crisp stole at least 13 bags with a high of 28 thefts in 2007. However, he joined the A’s and stared running like he was Ricky Henderson Jr.. Crisp stole 32 bags in just 75 games in 2010 before exploding for 49 thefts last year to lead the American League (he tied with Brett Gardner). There are a few reasons to be concerned about a repeat.
(1) Players just don’t start running heavily while in their early 30′s. It’s extremely rare that a player continues to build his steal totals in his 30′s.
(2) There is the health of Crisp to worry about. With his propensity to come down injured, it’s tough to count on the steals piling up.
(3) He gets on base at a leave average rate. If he got on base more frequently he would obviously have a better chance to swipe a bag, but he doesn’t so he has to run a good portion of the time that he reaches base.
(4) His owns history shows that from 2003-10 he averaged 21 steals a season. How he’s jacked up that number to an average of 41 steals the last two seasons is somewhat of a mystery given his advancing age.
There’s nothing wrong with drafting Crisp to add some speed to your club. If he can stay healthy there’s a reasonable expectation that he’ll swipe at least 25 bags. However, expecting 45 or even 35 could be asking too much from an injury prone an aging player. Given that he brings little else to the table other than steals, you’d be wise to avoid getting into a bidding war to obtain his services.
By Ray Flowers