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Sell High: Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford

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Most have heard that Tampa Bay Rays' LF Carl Crawford switched to training on grass rather than turf in the off-season. That switch has been credited with his phenomenal 25-25 start with SBs. It has impressed so much that Matthew Berry of ESPN.com has gone so far as to rank Crawford as the 6th best fantasy player for the rest of the season.

To me, outside of the 25-25, Crawford is still worrisome given his three-year decline in HRs and the occurrence of hamstring problems. Regardless, that isn't enough to disbelieve the new found ex-ante Top 10 ranking. (25-25 in SBs is a very valuable indicator despite my seeming dismissal in the opening sentence of this paragraph.)

A look at his career numbers clearly shows the drop in power. As a matter of fact, the 18 HR season of 2006 looks like a career-high given it is double book-ended by HR/F rates in the 6.6% to 8.3% range. This season Crawford looks like he is continuing the downtrended from that peak 12.5% season. A 2.4% HR/F screams it!

Year PA HR PA/XBH SB BB K LD% GB% IF/F HR/F % BA/BIP
2004 672 11 12.0 59 35 81 0.199 0.473 N/A 0.066 0.322
2005 687 15 10.9 46 27 84 0.201 0.45 0.133 0.083 0.325
2006 653 18 12.1 58 37 85 0.183 0.522 0.093 0.125 0.331
2007 627 11 11.0 50 32 112 0.201 0.478 0.046 0.071 0.374
2008 482 8 16.1 25 30 60 0.209 0.486 0.068 0.068 0.297
2009 180 1 12.9 25 13 31 0.211 0.474 0.167 0.024 0.398

All is not bad in the overall power department though. His 2009 SLG and Plate Appearances per Extra Base Hit remain within his career norms. Which brings me to the decision whether Crawford is a Top 10 player.

He is not. All speed players in fantasy baseball need some power and position scarcity in their favor to be Top 10. Crawford looks like he is lacks both characteristics.

Given his current profile, I'd equate Crawford's fantasy value to Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox. This assumes the off-season training for the 27-year-old has permanently banished the re-occurence of hamstring problems that would rob Crawford of his ability to steal bases.

I'm not betting on that outcome. Sell high on Crawford to whoever gave you a player/package better than Ellsbury's 4th/5th round value.