KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Boston Red Sox?
What's Carl Crawford's excuse for that clunker of a year?
Red Sox owner John Henry didn't want him. Terry Francona didn't know where to bat him. ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine offended him. His hamstring let him down for a month. A surgeon just opened up his left wrist. Crawford didn't feel the beat in 2011, and 2012 isn't off to a great start, either.
A new year is a clean slate - at least it is for the former Tampa Bay Ray. Roto players feel scorned - even those who didn't own him. The 30-year-old has six more years to justify to Red Sox Nation the more than $120 million he's owed. In just one, he could have fantasy baseball players back on his side. But it won't be easy.
Crawford has a lot to prove
Last season, the overrated Tito dropped Crawford in the order just three games into the campaign. As Todd Zola suggested, Jacoby Ellsbury's phenomenal performance prevented Crawford from re-entering the top third of the lineup and, perhaps as a result, from becoming comfortable.
The left-handed hitter seemed to be lost at the dish. He made a habit of swinging at offerings outside the strike zone more frequently. He struggled to get good wood on fastballs. He drew walks at a career-worst - and putrid - rate of 4.3 percent. He fanned in nearly 20 percent of his plate appearances, raising his career pace to ... 14.7 percent.
After his rough start, Crawford was searching for anything positive. That could easily have tempted him to chase pitches outside his hitting zone. He certainly isn't yet too old. He hasn't discernibly lost speed. The arthroscopic procedure on his wrist that he underwent in mid-January shouldn't have a long-lasting impact on his performance.
Crawford and his new skipper - yep, Bobby V - may have cleared the air when they spoke via phone earlier this month. The manager reported that the left fielder sounded determined to put 2011 behind him. Valentine hasn't settled on a batting order, however; as the Lord Zola also suggested, Crawford isn't first-round material if he isn't in the plans for the top third of it.
But the Lord also hinted at his intrigue: "... I may be tempted to incur the risk." Granted, he made that statement prior to the news of the BoSox outfielder's surgery, but the lesson is that, to win the game, you must take chances. The formerly perennial top-15 pick's perceived worth can't get much worse. In 2009, Crawford bounced back from a substandard 2008. He has a track record that's too long to ignore.
From initial reports, he could still be ready for opening day, although it doesn't sound likely. Assuming that he checks out health-wise, though, he won't miss much time. Experienced rotisserie baseball players are aware of the effect that injury news has on crowd-sourced player value. That plus his ruinous 2011 should make the sale on Crawford too enticing to pass him up.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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