Franchise Draft Discussion: Carl Crawford at #7

I can’t speak for the other writers here, but I can tell you one thing with certainty: I put way too much time into thinking about the FanGraphs Franchise Player Draft. Even though it was a hypothetical draft and merely a fun exercise, I found myself sweating bullets as my turn came around to pick. What’s the best strategy in this sort of draft? Should I go with upside, or with certainty? How much risk is too much risk, and how much is not enough? Gah, so many questions!

As we went through this draft, every one of us writers had to ask ourselves the exact same questions, and judging from the final results, each of us chose to answer them slightly differently. That’s one of the beautiful things in a draft like this: there’s no real “wrong” strategy (outside of selecting Chone Figgins or someone of that nature). Everyone still picked a potential franchise player — it’s just that each person’s pick can tell you a little about themselves if you look closely enough. For instance, I think Cistulli may just be one of those people that goes “All In” and then turns to his table-mate and says, “Now…what game is this again?” Go big or go home — Carson loves prospects and upside, and picking Mike Trout at #3 was living life on the wild side.

So why did I choose Carl Crawford with the #7 pick? I thought this was a potentially controversial pick at the time, but I had a very deliberate, thought-out reason for selecting Crawford. Let me explain.

I had a relatively high pick in this draft — number seven — but it was low enough that all the no-doubters like Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ryan Zimmerman were gone. I found myself trying to choose from between 11 different players, so I chose to go with a very risk-adverse strategy. I figured that if I’m going to build a franchise around one player, I’d better be darn sure that I’m going to be getting someone that will give me great production over the next handful of years.

This strategy meant I put an exceptional amount of stress on two main variables:

How does this player project over the next five seasons? After five years, even our best projection models are all but worthless. Who knows how any player is going to be performing in five years? So much can happen over that time. Players can get injured; players can have their skills atrophy; players can bust out unexpectedly. So instead of banking on someone producing for me for the next ten years, I wanted someone that I knew had a good shot at producing at an elite level over the next five seasons.

How much risk am I taking on? The ideal player would be one with a huge amount of upside, but with a minimal amount of risk. Things aren’t always that easy though, and I decided I was willing to sacrifice some upside in order to take a player with a lower amount of risk.

Is this the best strategy to take? No, probably not. In retrospect, I wish I was slightly more conscious of upside and took on a bit more risk, but it is what it is at this point. In case you’re curious, here’s my thought-process on the other 11 players I considered taking:

• Ryan Braun: He’s a great player and a great hitter, but I couldn’t see taking him at #7. His defense is well below average in left field, and while his offense would still be spectacular at first base, I don’t see why I wouldn’t choose Adrian Gonzalez instead of him — a player that can put up equally good offense while also being an above-average defensive player.

Jason Heyward: Amazing player, but his constant, nagging injuries really turned me off. It seems like he’s been playing in some sort of pain almost constantly, so it made him a less attractive pick in my mind. How many superstar talents have faded away due to injuries and never reached what we all thought they would?

Jose Bautista: He’s been flippin’ amazing this year, but how certain are we that he’s going to be this good in two years? He came out of nowhere, so I felt that makes his future career path harder to predict. Brett Boone pops to mind (although obviously he wasn’t this good at his prime), so I wanted someone with a more establish track record.

Matt Kemp / Jay Bruce: Both were top prospects, took a bit to get going in the majors, and are breaking out this year. I don’t have very well articulated arguments against either of them, except that if I was going to take an outfielder, I felt like there were even better ones to consider than them.

Hanley Ramirez: One word: defense. If Hanley sticks at shortstop, then he’s a top pick in this draft. But he’s never been a strong defensive shortstop and if he had to move off the position for whatever reason (injury, decline, etc), who knows what you get? He could put up a .400 wOBA, but if he’s only putting up adequate defense at first base or a corner outfield spot, that’s not nearly the same.

Felix Hernandez / David Price: I could have gone with either, but honestly, I felt like #6 was a bit high to select a pitcher. Also, it’s tough to choose which pitcher to take. If you’re going to take Price, why not Jon Lester? And if you’re talking about Felix, what about Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay? There are too many good options, with so much unpredictability swirling around them all.

Miguel Cabrera: Again, Miggy is another amazing hitter, but I was turned off by his defense and off-the-field stuff. I hate the idea of drafting an all-hit, poor fielding first baseman, and his repeated problems with alcohol turned me off. I felt like his lifestyle potentially adds a lot of uncertainty in his projections, and it also doesn’t make him an ideal face for a franchise.

Carl Crawford: He’s currently an elite player — one of the top handful of players in the majors in WAR over the last few years — and he’s in his peak. He’s very well-rounded — great at defense and offense, and he hits for average and a bit of power — and his skill set is one that generally ages well. The only real risk here is his knees, but judging from the info we have available, it seems like a relatively low-risk thing, especially playing on grass.

Andrew McCutchen: Honestly, I should have picked him; I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t. I passed on McCutchen because I underrated him in the heat of the moment, and I felt like he was essentially a younger, less established version of Crawford. I decided to take my chances with the player that had already reached superstar status, while McCutchen is still approaching that level and still has the potential to be as good as Crawford.

But that’s bad logic for a number of reasons. McCutchen is a center fielder and as long as his defense is good enough for him to stick there — which it seems like it is — his offensive production would be worth much more than Crawford’s over in left field. McCutchen is also more patient than Crawford and is showing like he has real power potential. He’s breaking out this season, and I think it’s a very safe bet that he can be as valuable as Crawford over the next five years. And his upside — oh, his upside is so, so sweet.

Anyway, now is the point where you get to mock me mercilessly. Have at it.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


125 Responses to “Franchise Draft Discussion: Carl Crawford at #7”

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  1. Soam says:

    I think you made the worst possible pick out of the 11 players you were considering.

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    • Yessss, just the sort of analysis I was hoping for. Many thanks.

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      • Nate says:

        You specifically pointed out the time to mock you mercilessly. I thought Soam did a nice job. Now you want analysis?

        Fun writeup.

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    • NBarnes says:

      Now that’s just silly. Miguel Cabrera is pretty obviously less valuable as a franchise player than Crawford, and anybody that thinks otherwise is badly undervaluing defense and badly overvaluing any first baseman not named Pujols.

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      • Hank says:

        Or maybe they are not undervaluing defense but considering someone who has a career UZR/150 of 22.5 at the Trop and a UZR/150 of ~7.5 everywhere else might be still be very good defensively, but that value may be a bit overstated?

        That massive split (and it’s over an 8 year period so it’s hard to just chalk it up to variation) translates to ~0.75WAR per year. It’ll be interesting to see how his #’s look after a couple of years away from the Trop.

        Not saying Cabrera is a better option but is Crawford’s defensive value perhaps overstated?

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  2. Jesse says:

    keep in mind much of the reason you pick was derided was because of how Crawford performed the 1st two month this year and the contract he signed, If this was done in September of last year it may have been seen a bit of a stretch but not panned nearly so bad.

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    • Haha, was it derided? Awesome. Honestly, I only waded into the first 150-200 comments in that thread, but didn’t see much about it…I found it surprising. So this article wasn’t really in response to anything, but just because I felt it’d be fun to write out.

      Agreed that the early returns this season have biased people, but Craw has been his same old self once you discount the month of April. I’m putting it down to trouble adjusting to the large market…wouldn’t be surprised at all.

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      • KyleL says:

        I personally thought it was a little bit of a stretch, but a justifiable one. He was a real life franchise player for the better part of a decade after all.

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      • Paul says:

        you had the luck of a #3 Trout-shaped shield to deflect any derision.

        Rather like the FIFA (soccer) bosses were pretty happy that the F1 bosses decided it would be a good idea to go back for a race in Bahrain – deflected the flak from them.

        getting less flak than you deserved doesn’t mean that you weren’t due flak for the pick

        anyway Crawford is a guy i would like to do well, works hard, athletic, does everything well, and is well on a HoF track (although early)

        – but he is a LF, and def value seemed skewed by tampa’s home field (so is he as good as the numbers say?) – a lot of his value is tied to his wheels rather than his stick, which is why i actually think it was a risky pick

        It was a great exercise, and good on you for backing up your pick with reasons

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  3. Jerome S. says:

    Most/All of those players seem like a better bet to be more “elite” than Crawford in five years, IMO.
    One could even argue if Crawford is “elite” now. Of course, now you’re down to the definition of “elite” a battle I’d rather not wage, but we can agree that it’s within the top tier of the baseball stratosphere. Crawford has not been that this year. There is no doubt that he is a highly skilled athlete. Last year was his best year – in other words, a year he’d have trouble duplicating, even in the tight confines of Fenway Park. Why pick a man who only approaches “elite” status at his peak?
    In my opinion, the best players are those who are elite before they peak, meaning that, barring something unpredictable (which you mentioned), they should be tremendous over the next five, ten (?) years.
    In other words, the young and great. Carl Crawford is on the edge of one, and far from the other.
    Among those on your list who have both youth and skill:
    J-Hey*
    Felix
    David Price
    *Health risk (though they all are, really).

    And let’s not forget that Carl’s greatest weapon is his legs. Those are a transient gift; As his speed withers even over the next two or three years, he will become a far inferior player all-round; triples will become doubles, doubles will become singles, and singles will become easy outs.

    All that said, I feel as though I’m ignoring the fact that this article is essentially agreeing with me. However, you believe that your logic was flawed. I, on the other hand, see no fault with the logic, but with how it was applied. That is, I do not think Crawford is as elite as we believe.

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    • Exactly why don’t you think Crawford is that elite? He’s been one of the league leaders in WAR over the last few seasons…top 5 out of all position players over the last two years, I believe.

      And as for the “In my opinion, the best players are those who are elite before they peak” point, consider this:

      McCutchen:

      Age 22 season: 3.5 WAR
      23: 3.7 WAR
      24: 3.7 WAR (still in progress)

      Crawford:

      Age 22 season: 5.1 WAR
      23: 4.8 WAR
      24:4.8 WAR

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      • bartleby says:

        Here’s part of your problem – you’re taking WAR to essentially be an answer key. Open up your mind. Don’t let *one* stat drive your decisions.

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      • …and you’re using no stats to back up your points. So I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at.

        I’m using WAR merely as an illustrative tool. Obviously it’s far from the be-all-end-all.

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      • Jerome S. says:

        But while McCutchen is 24 and his his best years in front of him, Crawford is long past that point.

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      • But looking at the above numbers, how do we know that?

        When Crawford was 24, people were expecting him to break out and post a 7 WAR season any day. He didn’t quite develop along that path and took a bit longer to get there.

        And that’s my main point…we can assume that McCutchen will develop to be better than Crawford, but it’s still an assumption at this point. Crawford was elite before he peaked, and now he’s currently in his peak. With McCutchen, you still don’t know how long until he gets there (although I’ll admit, I’m guessing he makes it there soon).

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      • JohnnyK says:

        But Crawford also had two 3-WAR years in 07 and 08 (09 was injury shortened I believe).
        What turns me off of CC is his career-BB% of 5.5; his highest was 7.6 in 09, and this year (SSS be damned) he is down to 3.3. That is a pretty hacktastic approach, one that would worry me.

        That, and his career-long struggles against lefties make him a reach at 7 IMHO.

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      • JohnnyK says:

        That’s supposed to be “08 was injury-shortened”

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      • BigNachos says:

        The problem with using WAR is that, as I understand it, it doesn’t properly adjust for production relative to position played.

        For example, the offensive component of WAR is relative to league averages. Crawford has been a better than league-average hitter, of course, but that’s with him being compared to catchers, shortstops, and second basemen, whose offense is generally much lower than a left fielder. Compared to other left fielders, his offense is not so special.

        Defense used in WAR, on the other hand, *is* adjusted based on position. Crawford is well above the average left fielder in defense, but he’s also being compared to truly terrible defenders like Delmon Young, Ryan Braun, etc.

        If Crawford were moved to centerfield, where his defense probably grades out closer to average for the position, but his offense is better for the position, his WAR would go down though he’d actually be a more valuable player.

        WAR basically grossly overestimates Crawford’s value as a defensive-minded left-fielder.

        Again, that’s as I understand it, and I could be wrong. But that’s why I’m always very skeptical of comparing players by WAR alone.

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      • Jerome S. says:

        Well Steve, I guess that’s the fun of baseball, you just can’t predict it…

        I think it’s just safer to bet on the horse with more years left than the one with a few. Who knows, maybe Crawford goes and has a few 8 WAR seasons. If he did that though, it’d have to be soon, and lord know he wouldn’t have many (barring a Bondsian age path).

        McCutchen, on the other hand, could go and have those eight WAR seasons in as many as five or six years (though hopefully sooner). He could also have that next year, and keep going for seven, eight years. Who knows, it’s not probable.

        This goes back to your upside debacle. Maybe that’s the problem. We view it differently; You made a safe bet, I want more risk/reward.

        Also, as JohnnyK said, his walk rates are probably the most disappointing thing about him. That is something that ages well, no matter what injuries occur.

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      • I think you’re missing my point. Yes, Crawford looked elite when young, like McCutchen, but then didn’t develop along that path and only recently finally reached his peak. You’re just highlighting my point by mentioning his 3 WAR seasons in there.

        So how do we know that McCutchen is going to develop smoothly and start hitting 6 WAR seasons over the next few years? Things don’t always go as we’d hope, so in this case, I chose to go with the certainty of Crawford over the risk.

        (…like I said at the end, I’d un-do that now. But I’m just walking you through my thought-process. And I totally agree about Craw’s walk rate — that’s always been his weak spot.)

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      • JohnnyK says:

        That was selective reading on my part, you are right. And I get your thought process and appreciate that you take so much time explaining it here.

        Out of curiosity – his lefty-struggles are something you considered, or do you think that is not that big of a deal?

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      • @Jerome – Note that in the end, I admit that I should’ve taken McCutchen. In the end, I think his upside outweighs the certainty, and he’s a pretty reliable bet at this point.

        I’m just defending why I think you can justify Crawford in this sort of spot, and why I think it’s problematic to assume that any young player is going to develop like we expect. There is some value is just banking on the player in their peak.

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      • Travis says:

        McCutchen’s 2010 UZR seems to be awfully out of place compared to the two seasons surrounding it, it’s possible that his total of 3.7 WAR is pretty depressed. Bring his UZR more in line with what he’s done this year and in 2009 (UZR is a three year sample size tool), and McCutchen’s age 23 season would look much like Crawford’s age 23 season.

        Also of note, McCutchen had 180 fewer PA in his age 22 season than did Crawford in his age 22 season. Pro-rate McCutchen’s PA total to match Crawford’s and McCutchen’s WAR wouldn’t be far behind.

        Last, look at another 24 year old Pittsburgh Pirate:

        .283/.368/.491

        BB%/K%/ISO:

        11.7/15.2/.208

        wOBA/wRC+:

        .373/144

        McCutchen:

        .292/.389/.490

        BB%/K%/ISO:

        12.7/19.3/.198

        wOBA/wRC+:

        .390/147

        The unnamed 24 year old Pittsburgh Pirate is Barry Bonds.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        I’m tired of people saying WAR is just one stat. No it isn’t. It is a combination of multiple stats into a single metric used to compare players. It isn’t perfect, but its the best way to compare players available.

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      • Hank says:

        I’m going to continue to beat this drum… folks need to take a careful look at the MASSIVE UZR splits Crawford has between home and road… and it’s over an 8 year period. This is having a significant impact on his WAR

        Maybe he really is 15 runs better at the Trop and that is real (22.5 UZR/150 at the Trop, 7.5 everywhere else) or maybe there is an issue… a misunderstood park effect, input data bias, an issue with the UZR model?

        I’ve seen a few comments on other posts that his defense has been worse this year… but I think people need to stop looking at him as a 15-20 UZR type fielder and more like a 5-10 UZR type fielder that he has been on the road. While his #’s being better at home shouldn’t be completely thrown out, when it’s 15 runs better on average (over 8 years), I think you need to consider the validity of it and consider the impact on WAR.

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      • matt w says:

        The side-by-side numbers for Crawford and McCutchen’s age 22-24 seasons are a little deceiving on their face; as someone pointed out, McCutchen didn’t have a full season at age 22, but more important, his age 24 season is 3.7 WAR in less than 70 games. We can’t necessarily expect him to continue at the same pace — which would give him 9 WAR — but it seems like he should eclipse Crawford’s 4.8 WAR pretty comfortably, barring something terrible that as a Pirates fan I don’t even want to think about.

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    • @JohnnyK Thanks! I tend to think his lefty issues are overstated due to his slump in Boston this year. He has a career .303 wOBA against lefties, which is far from terrible, and in most lineups I wouldn’t see the problem with leaving him up their against lefties. He hit #2 with the Rays every day — true, there were times when I wish Maddon had dropped him down, but I think it was a defensible move considering the Rays lineup.

      That Boston lineup is stacked, which certainly makes the decision to drop Crawford easier.

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  4. rhealy714 says:

    “And if you’re talking about Felix, what about Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay?”

    Umm.. Felix is 25 and Lee and Halladay are 33 and 34?

    Why would you choose a 33 or 34 year old pitcher to start a franchise around?

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  5. sstracher says:

    you should have picked mccutchen…i dont get the crawford pick, his speed could decline in 2-3 years and that is most of his production

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    • Jesse says:

      hasnt this been proven wrong? Barring injury doesn’t speed age better than the powering fast-twitch bat speed players?

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      • Yup. That’s one of the big thing I think most people ignore — speed tends to age very well. There was some work done on this around the time Crawford signed his contract, and speedy players do age better than sluggers.

        That said, Crawford’s knees are a risk. But I’m of the opinion that they were only ever a problem due to playing on the turf for so many games over the course of a year.

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  6. eliasll says:

    There is no way Crawford is better than Braun. Defense is not as relevant in left field as it is with position players of center field where you need to cover more ground and have a strong arm (in case your argument is WAR)
    Crawford does not have 40+ SB potential anymore, has a career OPS 0.150 lower than Braun and is two years older, so hell get slower and slower with time, while Braun will be consistently hitting 35HR-110RBI Crawford will be hitting 10HR-70RBI, production you can get from Shane Victorino…Braun and Crawford do not belong to the same tier.

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    • Ahh, how much we love our power hitters. Wouldn’t we have said the same thing about Ryan Howard when he was 27 years old?

      I’ll take the well-rounded, solid defensive player any day.

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      • bartleby says:

        Come on, Braun and Howard are very different offensive players. Braun hits for average and he runs. Howard doesn’t do those things.

        Apples/oranges.

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      • Both essentially power hitters, and that’s what you were choosing to focus on. I don’t see how a player’s speed or average influences their power production.

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      • Nate says:

        I don’t think the defense stats quite work for Brewer corner outfielders. Corey Hart is above average in CF, but below average in RF. Even 40 year old Jim Edmonds was a +20 UZR/150. Seems like playing CF for the Brewers increase your UZR/150, while playing corner outfielder for the Brewers decreases your UZR/150. Given Braun’s base running ability, he’s an above average runner. Given his arm strength and wheels, I don’t quite understand why he grades as a below average LF.

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    • KyleL says:

      “Crawford does not have 40+ SB potential anymore.” Based on what exactly? He stole 47 last year, and 60 the year before.

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    • juan pierre's mustache says:

      re: crawford:
      1) does have 40+ SB potential, having not lost it in the last 150 days or so
      2) knows as well as i do that .15 of OPS is pretty negligible
      3) as noted above, while he may get a bit slower with time, he will age at least as well as a comparable power hitter and the idea that speed guys age poorly has been proven incorrect
      4) if the past 2 years (and even this year) are any guide, crawford is more of a 15 (+) hr guy than a 10 hr guy, as ZiPS reflects, and if you’re being that pessimistic about his power giving braun credit for 35 hr going forward seems unfair
      5) RBI are dumb and comparing them between a leadoff/#2/bottom of the order guy and a #3 hitter is not especially useful
      6) the difference between crawford’s defense and braun’s is as important as the difference between 2 CFs, or SSs, or whatever–the position being easy does not negate players’ abilities to play better or worse defense there (even if the metrics are not necessarily reliable as ways of valuing players. if crawford prevents 10 runs more than braun, that is worth 10 runs.

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      • A guy from PA says:

        JPM, I agree with some of your points, but .150 of OPS is actually not negligible. That’s the difference between a crappy .650 hitter and an .800 solid hitter, a .750 solid hitter and a .900 perennial all-star. wOBA might be a better stat, but to say .150 of OPS is negligible I’d say might be stretching things.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        sorry, read .15 and thought .015…you are totally correct on that. .15 is, in fact, a lot and this can teach us a great lesson about being careful with decimals! for the record, i don’t know that i’d take crawford over braun, i just don’t like when people use facts that are, well, wrong.

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      • eliasll says:

        I agree with the 40+ SB potential, two months is a small sample…still, in my perspective, he would need to steal 60 again to be comparable with Braun. Since 2010 Allstar break he edges Braun by only 8SB.
        Speedy guys age well? Where does that come from? They probably have long careers but it is a fact that they do loose speed, both fielding and on the basepaths… I wouldnt be surprised to see Crawford become Johnny Damon (offensively) in 5 years.
        On the other end, I wouldnt be surprised to see Crawford hit 30HR next year and shut my mouth, hes had several 5+ HR months in his career…
        Point #6: do not agree, it is not a reliable stat, “flyball left field, oh it drops for a hit, crawford wouldve caught it” you cant really prove it…What if Braun studies hitters better than Crawford and positions himself before the pitch eliminating the extra step gained by jump/speed…we dont know that…I prefer to stick with real stats

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        i mean you are welcome to avoid fielding stats if you wish, but id rather use a poor measuring stick than none at all given that fielding obviously does matter and i think crawford is observably and according to most metrics a superior defender. i guess you can argue the stats, but i think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who considers braun even a decent fielder outside of the brewers broadcasters, and as a result i’d have to say it’s at least worth considering defense.

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  7. My echo and bunnymen says:

    I would have gone with McCutchen out of your options, I have some bias towards Kemp but not enough to discount that McCutchen is probably a better bet going forward, however, Matt Kemp does have that games streak thing going on.

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  8. bartleby says:

    Look back on this pick in five years, you’ll grossly regret it. Crawford can’t be that high when he’s an ordinary source of OBP and slugging, and you need to bury him against lefties.

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    • You don’t need to bury him against lefties. He’s not great against them, yes, but his .303 career wOBA against them is nothing to sneeze at. On a stacked lineup like the Red Sox, yeah, I’d knock him down against lefties, but this is a very different situation than most teams. The Rays kept him in the #2 hole all the time and it worked out pretty well for them.

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      • ToddM says:

        A career .303 wOBA vs. lefties for a corner outfielder actually does pretty much suck, Steve.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah, I think Todd is correct. .303 wOBA this year:

        Juan Rivera (89 wRC+, 0.4 WAR)
        Dexie Fowler (79 wRC+, 1.0 WAR)
        Shin-soo Choo (90 wRC+, 0.9 WAR)

        Other luminaries closeby include Lyle Overbay, Cap’n Jetes, Alex Gonzalez, Aubrey Huff, and Raul Ibanez…

        (And yes, I think Crawford is easily better than all of them, and that’s just his wOBA against lefties, etc., but it’s a weakness in his case and we should recognize it rather than gloss over it.)

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  9. Mr. wOBAto says:

    I am just wondering why Carlos Gonzales at 25 doesn’t get at least a glance, his bat plays like Crawford’s at 29 with considerably more power.

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    • A guy from PA says:

      Well, his splits are considered scary and he isn’t a great defensive player IIRC

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    • Shorter track record kinda throws me a bit. He’s a great player and I’d have listed him above if I wasn’t already at over 1000 words. I just thought he was a bit of a riskier pick.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        That is fair I am just constantly surprised about how Gonzales doesn’t even come up in this draft, I know people tend to be pretty suspicious of anyone who plays their home games at Coors but they said the same stuff about Holliday.

        Matt Holliday
        Age 24
        Home .338/.406/.603 1.009
        Road .240/.287/.367 .654

        Carlos Gonzales
        Age 24
        Home .380/.425/.737 1.161
        Road .289/.322/.453 .775

        Hitting on the road while hitting at Coors may be a bit an aquired skill, just a thought.

        PS. For more fun go look up what Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki’s Home/Road splits in their first years at altitude look like.

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    • Travis says:

      Because his road splits are bested by Will Venable. By quite a bit, too.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        I think treating Colorado players with the same Home/Road splits is misguided. Here are Jeff Cirillos age 26-31 Seasons first by overall OPS then by road OPS which one is easier to see which season was his first in Colorado
        Total
        1996 .325/.391/.504 .894
        1997 .288/.367/.426 .793
        1998 .321/.402/.445 .847
        1999 .326/.401/.461 .862
        2000 .326/.392/.477 .869
        2001 .313/.364/.473 .838

        Road
        1996 .350/.404/.548 .951
        1997 .289/.371/.436 .807
        1998 .329/.409/.469 .878
        1999 .300/.375/.454 .828
        2000 .239/.299/.329 .628
        2001 .266/.327/.383 .710

        it certainly illustrates that a veteran hitter with a proven track record had a dramatic drop in road production upon arrival.

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  10. sstracher says:

    i had no idea speed aged well…is that true?

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  11. Ben says:

    Good read and thanks for the explanation. I’d love to see more fangraphs writer take a shot at this, both because transparency is always valued and because this is probably more interesting/informative than the pick itself. Some interesting insights.

    I have to ask though, out of curiosity, why doesn’t Mike Stanton even make the top 11? Just too unproven? Only 21 years old, on his way to a 4 WAR season, and has improved over last year in a number of important indicators (fewer Ks, more BBs, higher ISO). In general, I was just really surprised as his fall. At the very least, the write up for Kemp/Bruce sounds like something you’d say about him too, no?

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    • A guy from PA says:

      Well, Steve seems to value track record a lot, and that is one thing a 21 year old Mike Stanton is obviously lacking.

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    • Honestly, I’d originally lumped Stanton in with McCutchen as a “should’ve picked him” player when drafting this post, but then cut him due to the length of it all.

      I really like Stanton and his power is really prodigious. I’d still rather have taken McCutchen over him, but I also think he should have gone higher in the draft than he did.

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    • Blue says:

      I would have chosen Stanton at 7 over all the guys he considered.

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  12. soladoras says:

    I would take Miguel Cabrera over Carl Crawford in a heartbeat. Lots of players have managed to have HOF careers while consuming large amounts of alcohol. He’s a year younger than Crawford and has managed to improve despite his drinking. Would he be even better if he wasn’t a heavy drinker? Probably. But he’s still shown the ability to produce at a HOF level despite drinking heavily.

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  13. Angelsjunky says:

    Sorry, but Crawford is not a superstar. This assertion reminds me of when Rob Neyer called Chone Figgins a superstar…AFTER Figgins signed with his hometown favorite Mariners, of course. Look what happened.

    My point is not that Crawford will completely crap the bed like Figgins did–that is very unlikely–but that both were/are coming off a career year, and probably the only year that either came anywhere close to “superstar” status. Now Crawford is a better player than Figgins, but at his best–2009 and 2010–he was more in the star category, imo.

    When I think “superstar” I think players that regularly produce WARs of 7+, with the occasional 8-9 or higher. When I think stars I think players that regularly produce 5+ WARs, with the occasional 7+, which fits Crawford to a T.

    But the problem with Crawford–and why I as an Angels fan was glad they didn’t sign him (although The Trade That Shall Never Be Mentioned nullified that brief sense of relief)–is that if he loses even just a step of speed, his value will plummet, both offensively and defensively, UNLESS he makes up for it with a power and discipline spike, but that seems unlikely.

    Don’t get me wrong – Crawford is a nice player. But not looking at WAR I would have pegged him more as a borderline star, not even a true star; given WAR (or at least fWAR), I can recognize that he is a true star, but even then bWAR disagrees and pegs him more in the borderline star category.

    Regardless, and this is my point: Carl Crawford is NOT a superstar, not unless we expect last year’s performance to be his new plateau; there is simply no good reason to think that.

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    • Russell says:

      Neyer is a Royals fan, I believe. You maybe thinking of Cameron.

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      • Ben says:

        Yeah, I meant to point that out too. Not that it makes Neyer any less wrong about Figgins, but he didn’t say it just because he likes the Mariners.

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    • Ben says:

      According to your definition, there are somewhere between 1 and roughly 5 superstars in the game. Pujols is the only one who’s satisfied that criteria over the last five years. Utley is close, but has a tough time staying healthy. Zimmerman and Longoria over the past two years have done it (though not the 8-9 part) but likely won’t this year. If Hamilton or Mauer could stay healthy, they could stake a claim. Votto looks like he’s poised to join Albert as the guy who can consistently do it, and Joey Bats probably will in the immediate future. Long story short, if you’re looking for a guy who’s going to provide you with consistent 7-win seasons with an occasional 8-9, you’re going to be SOL if you’re picking 7th.

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      • Yup, that’s the big problem. Outside of Carson, I think I was the first real pick where there were no more “sure things” on the board. Wide class to pick from, but no real stand-out, “you-gotta-pick-me” players.

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  14. Russell says:

    I don’t think Crawford is elite.

    He’s had 3 seasons of 5+ WAR and he’s 30. Thats only 2 more than the 21 year old Heyward has. Heyward has more WAR this year despite the obvious pain that you mentioned.

    Crawford’s on his way to a wOBA less than .350 for the 4th time in his career. I think we’d all agree that Heyward posting anything less than .350 would be a fluke. Crawford had the best year he’s every going to have last year at .378. Heyward put up .376 in his age 20 season.

    Going “safe” with a 5.5 WAR player when everyone else is snatching up 7 and 8 WAR players is a good way to safely make yourself an average team.

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    • If you don’t think Crawford is a star, then that’s a whole different debate that frankly, I don’t really feel like delving into. I’ve argued that enough with people in the past — it seems he constantly gets underrated by most people.

      And you seem to be neglecting to realize that this is theoretically just the first pick in a draft. Who’s to say I wouldn’t gamble on high risk, high reward players later on in the draft? That’s how I generally roll…I just like more certainty upfront.

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      • Russell says:

        5.1 WAR and a .376 OBA at age 20 (with an injured thumb) spells certainty to me. He equaled Crawford’s average season over an 8 year career at age 20 for heaven’s sake. Unless he runs wrist first into a fence (which he is no more likely to do than Crawford, despite the nagging injuries Heyward has Sported so far), he’s going to be better than Crawford for the next 5 years. Not to mention entering his prime when Crawford turns into Juan Pierre.

        As far as Crawford being elite, David Wright has more career WAR in 300 less games. Fred Wilpon says no.

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      • I’m not saying Heyward isn’t awesome and a star. I’m just saying his injury history turned me off enough to want to look elsewhere. Maybe it turns out to be nothing, but I think I’ve been scarred from rooting from too many “can’t miss” players that fall short due to injuries.

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      • Russell says:

        I would be right there with you if he had sustained something serious but a bruised thumb and inflammation aren’t scaring me away. Especially when he’s doing what he did despite them and still developing. I mean, we’re talking franchise player here, and 50 WAR over the next ten years for Heyward seems to be the floor.

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  15. RC says:

    Honestly, I’m not even sure Crawford would be the first Red Sox outfielder I’d pick at this point.

    Ellsbury is 2 years younger, might be a better hitter, is a better base runner, and in the majority of his playing time, has been a much better than average defender at a more demanding position. Ellsbury can also hit lefties, something Crawford can’t do.

    I mean, you picked a 30 year old outfielder who’s best season was 7.8WAR, but is probably more reasonably expected to be a 5WAR player, over a 31 year old OF who has put up 5WAR in <300PA.

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    • Fred says:

      Ellsbury career UZR/150 in CF…. -0.2

      (I guess that’s much better than average when you factor in flashy plays that are generally the result of a bad jump or a bad route to the ball)

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    • Dustin says:

      I don’t think I would go this far, at least yet, but I think he would be available in rounds 2 and 3 of a draft like this. I am sort of risk adverse as well and Jacoby hasn’t put up a track record to justify a first round pick IMO(though that might be different if not for the flukish rib injury). Though one could definitely argue that Ellsbury would be more valuable than Crawford over the next 5 years and beyond.

      Career numbers:

      CC
      .294/.334/.441/.776 ISO .148 BABIP .329 wOBA .345 wRC+ 111 BB 5.3% K 15.5%

      JACOBY
      .295/.349/.416/.766 ISO .121 BABIP .326 wOBA .350 wRC+ 110 BB 6.8% K 13.6%

      Pretty darn similar. It also seems that Ellsbury is growing into some power and may eventually be a 15 hr a year guy(if not this year). Ellsbury’s CF defense has been up and down, but he is most likely at least an average to above average CF. In LF he would be one of the best just like Crawford.

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  16. Anon says:

    From an earlier comment by the author: “He’s been one of the league leaders in WAR over the last few seasons…top 5 out of all position players over the last two years, I believe.”

    If you look at 2008-2011, which I think are the most relevant, he’s 19th.
    2009-2011, also reasonable, 13th.
    2010-2011, not great, as Marcel has shown that 3 years is pretty optimal for projecting future performance, but if you’re going to choose 2 years, the 2 most recent is the way to go. He’s 15th.
    2009-2010 is the only period where he comes close to 5th, (he’s 6th overall). To use this time period, though, is completely unreasonable and evidence of cherry-picking data to match a conclusion, or ignorance of key concepts in projecting player performance that I don’t buy from an author here. Excluding this year’s performance entirely, (and not just assigning it a lower weight due to less PAs for the year), is excluding the most important information, on a PA or game by PA/game basis.

    Disingenuous writing has no place at Fangraphs. If the data supports your argument, by all means, defend your position. But when it doesn’t, admit as much instead of trying to manipulate what data you use.

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    • 1. I chose to discount this season from the dataset, as I feel his performance hasn’t been indicative of his true talent level. You can disagree with me there, but I’m attributing a lot of his struggles this season with adjusting to the large-market of Boston and all the pressure there.

      2. So I then looked at his two most recent seasons. He was injured through a large part of 2008 and not playing at his best, so it also seemed disingenous to include that in the data. It’d be undervaluing him.

      3. Whoops, so he was 6th best over that time period rather than 5th. Bad memory, I suppose.

      If you think that overvalues him, fine. But he’s had a long track record of success, and I don’t think it that unlikely that he’s finally started putting the pieces together.

      But please, continue to call me disingenuous, even when I admit I don’t agree with myself at the end of the article.

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      • Ben says:

        Not sure I agree with the philosophy of discounting 2008 because of the injury. Wouldn’t you then have to go back and take a look at who else was injured during those time frames? Doesn’t seem fair to tweak things so that Crawford’s injury doesn’t count against him without doing so to every other player.

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      • BigNachos says:

        That sounds like the very definition of cherry-picking data. You can’t just throw out performance when injured (if you did that, how would you rank Albert Pujols?) since that matters too. It’s not like Crawford will not suffer any injuries in the next 5+ years.

        I also don’t see how you can say “he’s finally started putting the pieces together” when you’ve just thrown out recent data that says he’s done the exact opposite.

        As far as I can tell, you’re simply cherry-picking data to make a point that WAR loves Crawford, but that’s no way to form a convincing argument.

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      • Fair point. It was a broken finger and not exactly something that’s going to come back and haunt him down the line, so that’s why I put so little weight on it. Freak thing.

        But you can make the argument that WAR overvalues him. I tend to think not, as I watched what sort of an impact he’s had on the Rays over all these past years, but hey, you’re free to disagree.

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      • Russell says:

        In this case you are trying to determine true talent level going forward. I think you’d have to account for time missed. Thats not cherry picking. I don’t agree with the pick at all but a pulled hammy has nothing to do with true talent level.

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      • @BigNachos: I’m sorry I didn’t spend another 500 words in my post (or in the comments) explaining why I think Crawford is a star. It was a shorthand, throwaway comment, not meant to be interpreted as complete and utter justification of Crawford being a star. When you’re writing pieces like this, you can’t stop to explain each and every detail.

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      • KyleL says:

        If you’re talking about a players “real” talent you absolutely should discount an injured year. What does an injured year show you as far as a players actual talent goes?

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      • BigNachos says:

        @KyleL: Because players perform differently when hurt. For example, Pujols and Chipper Jones can be still be elite players even when playing through injuries. Others lose various amounts of value.

        Of course, as a player like Crawford enters his 30s, he becomes more likely to be hurt, so it becomes more important to look at that data going forward, not less.

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      • Ben says:

        @KyleL: I agree that when looking forward, you have to take injuries into account as an explanation for poor performance. My issue is that I don’t think it’s fair to say that he was 5th in WAR over a given time frame while ignoring the injured season, because if we ignore his injured season, we have to ignore other injured seasons, and that may very well impact whether he’s 5th in WAR. If you’re going to overlook injuries, you should do it for all players.

        Don’t mean to beat this horse to death, and as mentioned earlier, I enjoyed this piece simply as a thought exercise. Just trying to push some of the thinking.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Anon says:

        “I chose to discount this season from the dataset, as I feel his performance hasn’t been indicative of his true talent level. You can disagree with me there, but I’m attributing a lot of his struggles this season with adjusting to the large-market of Boston and all the pressure there.”

        If you want to go with your gut, fine, but don’t use WAR, or a saber looking process, as the justification for the pick. If there’s evidence that large markets cause a significant drop-off in the first few months for a FA, I’m unaware of it. And without evidence, what’s the point?

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      • Jason B says:

        “I chose to discount this season from the dataset, as I feel his performance hasn’t been indicative of his true talent level.”

        That’s only a fair approach if you’re making similar adjustments to all other contenders in the talent pool if they have an “off” or “down” season or part of a season, or similar adjustments to players playing “over their heads”. (And that said, I do agree that Crawford quite a bit better than he’s shown over this season as a whole.) If you’re just tinkering with certain players to get a better result for player X, but not for everyone, then I *do* think Anon is right – it’s a bit disingenuous. You can’t tinker with just the one your after to get the result you want.

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    • Ben says:

      Speaking of things that have no place at fangraphs, making yourself feel better by insulting the author is pretty high up there.

      You do make a good point…but it would be better made if you weren’t a dick about it.

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      • Anon says:

        Saying he was disingenuous wasn’t an insult, or at least, wasn’t said specifically to be insulting. Saying something negative about an article doesn’t necessarily make someone a dick.

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  17. bartleby says:

    Big Nachos, you knocked it out of the park with your 3:29 post. So many outstanding points. Nicely done. Everyone should read it and consider what he said.

    (And because the Internet doesn’t convey tone, I am 100 percent sincere – it’s an excellent collection of thoughts on WAR.)

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  18. Andrew says:

    If you wanted an established outfielder, why not take Matt Holliday? He’s a bit older than Crawford but unlike Crawford has actually been consistently excellent for most of his career. Crawford is a good player who has shown flashes of brilliance but is not someone who should be expected to put up 5-6+ WAR for the next five years. Holliday is a better hitter, plays good defense, and even if his skills decline in his mid 30s will still be a 4-5 WAR player, which is essentially what Crawford has been just as often as he’s been a 6+ WAR player.

    On the other hand, if you were willing to take on a bit more risk, I would suggest Justin Upton. Even with a down year last year due to a shoulder injury he’s returned to form this year and is on pace for over 5 WAR – and he’s not even 24. He’s already as good as you can reasonably expect from Crawford going forward and has the potential to become even better as he reaches his peak.

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  19. everdiso says:

    In Crawford’s career year he posted a .378woba, which was good for 23rd in baseball. Not even really elite in his career year. In his other “good” years, his .367woba was good for 57th in 2009, his .365woba in 2007 was also good for 57th, and his .368woba was good for 51st in 2006…..and those ranks are only of the 150-160 mlb hitters who qualify each season, so he’s not even top-1/3 in those years.

    The only thing that ever made Crawford “elite” by any measure was the very suspect UZR ratings this weak-armed single-position defensive player (at a low-impact defensive position usually stacked with no-D sluggers no less) earned in one single field – at home in Tropicana. He posted a 22.6 uzr/150 in Tropicana’s left field over his career. In every other stadium, he posted a 7.5uzr/150 – good, but again not elite.

    And I don’t know about anyone else, but when I see a crazy outlier number like that for a LFer with obvious defensive limitiations (i.e. his popgun arm) in what is a highly volatile and less than proven stat – that screams to me that there’s something suspect going on with the stat itself, that it’s failing to account for something properly in this specific case…and not that this player is actually that much better than everyone else in this one specific ballpark.

    So yeah, in short – Crawford 7th overall is craziness.

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    • You, my friend, have obviously never watched Crawford play defense.

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      • everdiso says:

        You, my friend, have obviously never watched Crawford play defense.

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      • You a Sox fan? As a Rays fan, I can tell you Crawford is pretty ridiculous at D. I’ve heard he’s had trouble with the Monster and I’m not really surprised that his range isn’t showing up well in Boston, but he was a beast in Tampa.

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      • BigNachos says:

        I’ve watched him enough with the Red Sox to be less than impressed, though his skills don’t match well with Fenway.

        In any case, how does Brett Gardner’s defense compare to Crawford’s defense? UZR says his defense is worth about twice what Crawford’s is worth. Does that mean Gardner is really that great (and Crawford isn’t so elite), or UZR is just that unreliable, or…?

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      • jsolid says:

        @BigNachos
        Gardner’s D is terrific. his speed lets him get to everything – fliners become outs and fewer balls get to the wall – and his arm is above average with excellent accuracy.

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    • Hank says:

      Everdisco…. I’ve been harping on the home/road UZR splits for a while now (I mentioned it when people were falling over themselves to justify Theo’s contract).

      While it’s not unreasonable to expect a player to play a little better at home (knows the angles of balls coming off the wall, how much room from warning track to wall, might pick the ball up better, etc) the Crawford #’s are startling and over too large a time period to chalk up to noise.

      If the road #’s are real that knocks about 0.75 WAR per year off his value… and if you look at his last 3 years the split was even more massive (well over 20 runs/year on average) and would be more than 1 WAR/year.

      He’s a very good defensive OF’r, but the elite defense tag I think is a bit overdone.

      Steve – is his range showing up well in away games? Or are you just spitballing it is a Fenway issue? (I can’t find 2011 home/road UZR splits so I have no idea)

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      • everdiso says:

        probably stole the home/road factoid from you in the first place, Hank!

        I already viewed his crazy uzr numbers with skepticism, but once the home/road split was pointed out to me (probably by you), it became even clearer to me.

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  20. everdiso says:

    I’m a Jays fan.

    He’s got elite range. IMO, everything else is mediocre….except for his arm, which is poor.

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    • Dustin says:

      What are you referring to when you say “everything else is mediocre..?”

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      • everdiso says:

        jumps / routes / glove / errors / “wallplay”

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      • Pat says:

        aren’t all those things inferred in “range”?

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      • everdiso says:

        IMO range refers specifically to the ability to flat out run down balls, regardless of jumps/routes/glove/errors.

        for instance, Vernon Wells the past couple of the years for the Jays was flawless in terms of jumps/routes, but simply no longer had the range to be an effective CF. He still looked pretty out there, but just couldn’t run down the balls that many other “uglier” CFs could.

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  21. Sibevefeethed says:

    click copy handbags for gift I0PD0616

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  22. dusters says:

    I think I would have gone with Braun. I really don’t like the argument that Braun won’t age well, especially the comparisons with Ryan Howard. They are not even close to similar players. I think the best comp. to Braun for body type and offensive prowess is A-Rod. Obviously A-Rod was a much better defender, but look at the similarities between them otherwise.

    Braun has a .307 career avg, a-rod .302

    Braun has a wOBA of .397, A-Rod .408

    Braun has a WRC_ of .397, .408

    They both steal a decent amount of bases, and are kind of taller/leaner than most sluggers.

    A-Rod was obviously a lot more valuable because he played SS, but I think Braun will age pretty will. He will probably have to move to 1B later on in his career, but I don’t think his defense is as bad as some make it out to be. His total zone has increased every year in LF, and he has above average speed for a LF.

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  23. Ben Hall says:

    My only disagreement is with your analysis of Hanley. No, he’s not a great defensive shortstop, but why would a shortstop move to first or a corner outfield. Wouldn’t he be much more likely to move to third or second?

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  24. Sultan of Schwing says:

    I didn’t like your Crawford pick for reasons I doubt you and the saber community can relate to, but I think is important nonetheless: CC should bat 6-9 in a batting order because 1) he’s not an strong OB guy, so he’s not a great 1 or 2 hitter 2) he’s not a great hitter and also has average power, so 3 is out 3) because he only has average power, 4 and 5 are out.

    I wouldn’t start my franchise with a guy pulling anchor at the rear of a lineup, which is really where he belongs. But otherwise, CC is great.

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  25. OzzieGuillen says:

    If Crawford was 25, I would accept all of the arguments. The problem is that Cabrera, Kemp, Braun, and Felix are all a few years younger than Crawford and can produce as well or better than him. I would probably go with Cabrera just because of the consistency. Even with his personal problems, he always produces.

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  26. Michael Bourne says:

    I understand the lower risk of a Crawford compared to players like Bruce, Kemp and McCutchen. (You also didn’t factor in that the Dread Pirate looks cooler than the Crawfish, and that matters when building a team too!)

    How come you didn’t consider AGon when you even mentioned him as better than Braun (the first player you listed)?

    Did you see Miggy’s 3-6-1 double play on 6/14? I did. He isn’t the best 1b defender ever, but I wouldn’t say he is a liability anymore either. If the drinking part scares you away from him though, I get that because many Franchises want a good clubhouse/locker room above talent. I wouldn’t but that is a GM’s prerogative. (You also don’t have to give up much talent to get other top bats with less off-field problems at this point in the draft).

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  27. Garrett says:

    The ideal player would have exactly no upside. Prime Bonds has 0 upside. He is the best baseball player ever. He would never be any better. I, for example, have a ton of upside, since I’m nearly the worst baseball player imaginable.

    Extremely poor thinking and writeup.

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  28. ynkees_best says:

    Shoulda picked Brian Wilson. Worse case scenario ya coulda used his moustache in ur ad campaign ;)

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  29. eliasll says:

    Who still prefers “well rounded” Crawford over Braun?

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