Is Brandon Crawford Who We Thought He Was?

It’s like deja vu all over again here as I get to discuss the fantasy relevance of Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford during another post-season position wrap-up. For those who weren’t here last season or simply don’t remember, here’s the piece where I opine that Crawford may be an outstanding defensive shortstop, but he offers next to nothing in terms of fantasy contribution and is best left alone come draft day. Well, now here we are one year later and while there was a touch of improvement in some areas, the opinion remains the same. Enjoy the ESPN Web Gems and your local highlights on Comcast Bay Area, but when it comes to fantasy baseball, move along. There’s nothing left to see here.

When the 2013 season opened and Crawford sat on the waiver wire in most leagues, I applauded the fantasy community for its sensibility. And when he turned around and hit .272 with five home runs and 14 RBI through the end of April, I received my first email which came with a link to my article and the question, “zero in fantasy, huh?” So like any good FanGraphs loyalist, I simply replied with the good ol’ small sample size argument. I preached patience and assured him that regression was not a myth.

Well, we all know what happened next. With the help of a .352 BABIP, Crawford hit .293 for the month of May, although the power disappeared. When the calendar flipped to June, Crawford began to look more and more like the player we knew him to be and after a quick rebound in July, he went into the tank for the rest of the season. He finished the year with a .248 average, nine home runs, 43 RBI, 52 runs scored and one stolen base.

Now there were obviously a few things that we can look at as promising. He hit for more power last year, regardless of whether April was a fluke or not. He improved his walk rate, cut down on the strikeouts and improved his overall plate discipline — swinging at fewer pitches and laying off a lot more of the stuff outside the zone. We may also be able to attribute his slump in June to the sprained middle finger which caused him all sorts of problems though it never landed him on the disabled list. But where my issue lies with Crawford is found in both the vanishing act he pulled at the end of the season and the overall lack of fantasy stats he provides.

Maybe he is improving as a ballplayer. I certainly won’t deny that. As I sit here and re-read the above paragraph, I’m thinking to myself that if this were maybe someone who I already had on my fantasy team right now, would I be more optimistic in my evaluation? Maybe. But with the need to separate fantasy from reality, I think IĀ  still have to say no. There are several inconsistencies and fluctuations in his numbers if you just run down his month to month splits and even if you look at the months where his BABIP rose above .300, there still wasn’t much in the way of actual production. His power is minimal, there’s no speed to be had, and he hits too far down in the lineup for him to really build on his runs and RBI. We may have seen a little more power than we thought we would, but there’s really nothing in his numbers, both major and minor league, that indicates more on the horizon.

And if there is, what are we looking at? Maybe three more home runs for the year? There’s still not much value in a 12 home run shortstop who hits under .250 and doesn’t steal any bases. If you’re in a 15-team NL only league, then maybe, but for anything more shallow than that, you’re still better off looking elsewhere.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com


7 Responses to “Is Brandon Crawford Who We Thought He Was?”

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  1. E. K. says:

    I find it interesting that Crawford makes so many flashy plays but often struggles to make the extremely simple ones.

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    • channelclemente says:

      Crawford is a second baseman hiding out out shortstop. But he cratered after he jammed his fingers sliding into second base.

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  2. HALbert says:

    Brandon Crawford is mixing chemicals in a test tube. Don’t do anything, just watch. Players like him, even defensive whizzes, tend to not get the number of PA to learn how to hit, and Crawford has a minor (and major) league history of hitting better than other defense-first shortstops like Brendan Ryan.

    What you may not know is Crawford was told to dial back to a contact-oriented approach following the power outburst in April. He had a stretch where his overall contact fell and K% rose dramatically, and that angered the Giants. Crawford has shown that he can trade off contact for power, so it remains to be seen if he finds a balance between the two without having to sacrifice one for the other. Especially as he enters his late 20’s offensive peak.

    I have no idea why he doesn’t steal bases when he’s an average baserunner.

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  3. Rob says:

    If you want to crown him then crown his ass!

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  4. Deelron says:

    This isn’t really all that fair, I mean granted, he’s not really good, particularly if you have to start him full time, but according to last years leaderboard only 17 guys even had enough PAs to qualify at SS and he’s 9th, which is a bit better then looking at him Ina 15 team deep NL only league.

    Additionally if you’re playing in a format where he can be platooned (say ottoneu), he’s right around league average vs R, which is not too shabby for a $1 SS, it’s just such a bleak position.

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  5. DrBGiantsfan says:

    At the end of the season, Crawford was doing almost exactly what he has done in the past when he has slumped at the plate: He lets his bat drift down until it touches his shoulder then brings it up to hitting position as the pitcher delivers…..too late! He then has to rush his swing and he gets no drive into it.

    That is the reason for the numbers you see, but it probably doesn’t matter because he has done this before and will probably drift into this bad habit again in the future so it all comes out as a statistical average that he will regress to.

    Two more points:

    1. I thought he was starting to look more thick in the legs partway through last year and “…past a diving Crawford…” became an all-too-familiar call.

    2. I believe Ehire Adrianza is probably a better defensive shortstop right now and may be just as good at the plate or even better in the future. Adrianza is out of options. If I give up one, I would give up Crawford.

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  6. Analyst says:

    If you are talking about a mixed league, you are probably correct. But in a typical NL-only 10 team league you are dead wrong (not to mention 11- or 12-teams). He earned nearly $7 last year in a 11-team 5×5 league, and some 6-7 other SS were chosen of less value. Nine HR, 48 RBI and 52 Runs are worth a tidy sum.

    (Is ANYONE in a 15-team NL league? Maybe that’s hyperbole, but if it’s not, that league would be lacking about 3 SS even if they scraped the bottom of the barrel.(

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