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 I 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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