Boston Red Sox: Whose Lineup Return Is More Important, Ellsbury or Crawford?

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJuly 8, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MAY 02:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammate Jacoby Ellsbury #2 after both scored on a hit by Dustin Pedroia in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on May 2, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

At some point after the MLB All-Star break, Boston Red Sox outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are expected to return from DL stints. Which outfielder is more important to the lineup though—Ellsbury or Crawford?

Ellsbury has only played in seven games this year before suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-April. Ellsbury elected not to have surgery and was placed on the 60-day DL. He has been resting his shoulder for the last several weeks and has recently started rehabbing in Boston’s minor league system.

Ellsbury played four games with Boston’s GCL affiliate and is currently playing with Double-A Portland. He should be able to return by July 19 at the latest, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.

Crawford, however, is a completely different story.

He had surgery on his wrist during the offseason and then had soreness in his elbow which has kept him out even longer. Crawford has been playing with Portland for the last few games and will play with Triple-A Pawtucket this weekend, according to ESPNBoston’s Joey McDonald. Abraham writes that Crawford could return by July 13.

Crawford suffered a setback in his rehab after straining a groin, according to McDonald. He was at Fenway today working on agility drills, according to Comcast SportsNet New England’s Maureen Mullen.

With both set to return sometime after the All-Star break, who has Boston’s lineup missed more this season?

Going into this weekend’s series against the New York Yankees, here’s Boston production in left and center field this year:

Left Field: .277/.361/.469 18 HR, 81 RBI, 88 R, 4.2 WAR (Third in MLB)

Center Field: .277/.309/.356 2 HR, 34 RBI, 48 R, 0.6 WAR (26th in MLB)

Clearly, there’s a vast difference in how the replacements have performed during Ellsbury and Crawford’s absences.

Daniel Nava and Cody Ross have done a good job at manning left field this season. Nava’s performance has been a big surprise as he’s constantly hitting atop the Boston lineup and has gotten on base 40 percent of the time. He’s also been stellar defensively in front of the Green Monster.

Ross has provided the power numbers and has hit in the heart of the Red Sox lineup for most of the season. He’s hit 12 home runs while playing left field which is tied for 10th in MLB. Boston has also used Scott Podsednik and Darnell McDonald in left field but Podsednik is currently injured and McDonald was designated for assignment.

The center field replacements have basically been a disaster this year. Boston has used seven different players in center and since Ryan Sweeney is currently injured, Ryan Kalish has been the regular starter. The lack of power has been more than apparent among these seven players as they’ve only produced two home runs—one from Podsednik and one from Marlon Byrd, who was DFA’d.

Looking at the numbers, Boston really needs Ellsbury more in the lineup than Crawford.

The Red Sox need Ellsbury’s unprecedented combination of offense, defense and speed to bring them back into the playoff race. Even though Crawford didn’t put up the best numbers in his first season with the Red Sox, it will be nice to have a regular left fielder in the lineup.

Boston needs Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford back as soon as possible, but their lineup misses Ellsbury much more.