The Red Sox made the biggest splash in the hot-stove season with the acquisitions of Adrian Gonzales and Carl Crawford. Gonzales gives the team a much needed left handed power bat mixed with perhaps the best fielding first baseman in the league, while Crawford will strengthen an already speedy outfield that may now be the best defensive group in the American League.
While Yankee apologists will cry foul over the apparent dethroning of the Bronx Bombers from atop the mountain of infinite payroll, fantasy owners will need to keep this trade at the forefront of their collective minds when drafting this March.
In nine seasons as a pro, Crawford has been a model of consistency, averaging 54 stolen bases with 100 runs scored while putting up a respectable 296 career batting average. In addition, Crawford has averaged 78 RBI’s over that span, something that is not common from a table-setting speedster that does his damage near the top of the lineup.
It will be interesting to see how the Sox utilize their new weapon, as the team already has speedster in Jacoby Ellsbury and a solid #2 hitter in Dustin Pedroia. If Crawford replaces Ellsbury at the top of the lineup, he should receive numerous scoring chances and may set his career best mark of stolen bases, as Francona and the Sox are certainly not afraid to run. Should he be placed second in the lineup with Pedroia third and Adrian fourth, he will be given a chance to drive in runs well above his career clip of 78 while scoring well over 100 runs.
Before you move Crawford near the top of your draft board, we recommend using some caution as there are a few warning signs that must be considered. First, the main reason that Crawford has been a perennial early round pick has been his unusual combination of speed, average, and power from the outfield. If the Red Sox opt to limit Crawford’s steals to only 30 a season while focusing more on his hitting and defense, fantasy owners would only realize third or fourth round production from a first round pick. Second, Crawford enjoyed playing under the radar in Tampa Bay’s small market, without the stress and pressure that comes from large market fans and press. Will he be able to stay focused under the microscope of the Boston media, and will he struggle under the huge expectations of his megadeal?
Unfortunately for fantasy owners only time will tell when it comes to these questions. We think Crawford will respond well and will produce first or second round talent that fantasy owners expect. With that said, it would not surprise us to see an over-anxious owner use a top 5 pick on Crawford, similar to how there was an over valued ranking on Matt Kemp one year ago. Carl Crawford is a unique talent with tons of upside, however we don’t recommend using a top 5 pick on him unless it becomes clear how the team will utilize its new weapon.