Carl Crawford's warning label
If you're looking for a lead-off hitter or even someone to bat second, Carl Crawford is not your man. That's sort of the thinking in baseball's free agency as teams line up to sign the soon-to-be-former Rays leftfielder. Those in Tampa Bay are quite familiar with Crawford not leading off at this point in his career, but outside of Tampa Bay, teams and fans might think of the speedy Crawford as being a perfect top-of-the-order guy. Not so fast, says Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, who completely understands Crawford's role these days. Veducci writes:
Now here is your No. 3 hitter. Don't sign Crawford if you want a leadoff or No. 2 hitter, which is the way most baseball people have viewed the speedy Crawford. Rays manager Joe Maddon smartly moved Crawford into the middle of the order this year, recognizing his growth as a hitter.
At 28, Crawford is coming off career highs for home runs (19), RBI (90) and OPS (.851). He also hit a career-high flyball rate and a career-low for line drives. In other words, Crawford is transforming as a hitter, lofting more balls into the air, with more of them carrying out of the park. He profiles more as a three hitter than a table setter. That's not a bad thing; as he ages Crawford should become a steady 25-30 home run guy with 100 RBI. But he might not be quite the same devastating force on the bases. Last year Crawford attempted stolen bases less than half as often hitting third as when he hit second. Look for that trend to continue.
Verducci looks a little deeper into some of the top free agents. Click here to read his take. Meantime, Red Sox fans might be interested in this story from NESN about Boston's offseason plans, which might include Crawford.