This Article was first featured on New England Sports Online: Carl Crawford on the Red Sox: Double Trouble for the Rays. Follow me on Twitter for an always fresh perspective @neso17.
Carl Crawford is truly an intriguing player. He is arguably the game’s most feared five-tool player, in that he can hit for average, hit for power, steal bases, field well and throw well.
Crawford has stolen 50 bases five times in his career, including one 60 steals season. His lowest steal total for a season (other than his rookie year) came in 2008 with 25, when he only played in 109 games.
At this point, here’s what the Red Sox lineup would presumably look like:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Carl Crawford, LF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. J.D. Drew, RF
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
9. Marco Scutaro, SS
I have heard people criticizing the decisions Sox’ GM Theo Epstein has made this off-season, saying that re-signing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre would make the Sox’ lineup as dangerous as it currently looks.
However, Adrian Beltre has had two great seasons in his entire career, both of which were contract years. In Beltre’s twelve-year career, he’s only hit above .300 twice, and has only topped 25 home runs three times.
Victor Martinez will certainly be missed, especially since it is unclear whether or not his replacement, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, can produce in the major leagues.
Martinez is one of the best hitting catchers in the MLB, if not the best, and considering the wear-and-tear his body takes, he is durable, hits for average and belts home runs. His fielding was good, but he was unable to throw runners out.
Also, with four years on the contract he earned from Detroit, he’ll be 36 at the expiration of the deal. Generally, catcher’s careers are shorter than most players, since their body does take a beating. The Sox did not need another Mike Lowell situation down the road.
To see whether or not this Red Sox team is better than the one they would have had by reusing last year’s squad, let’s compare each team position by position.
Right Field: J.D. Drew vs. J.D. Drew;
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Mike Cameron;
Ellsbury. Jacoby Ellsbury is a better player. He has had a better average over his career (albeit a short one thus far) and is brutally dangerous on the base paths.
Left Field: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Carl Crawford;
Crawford. First of all, we must realize that the team’s left field last season was made up of a platoon of Darnell MacDonald, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Jeremy Hermida. Crawford is an upgrade over every one of those players.
Against Ellsbury: Crawford has a slight speed disadvantage, but has put up All-Star numbers throughout his career, showing consistency and veteran poise and leadership.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia vs. Dustin Pedroia;
Short Stop: Marco Scutaro vs. Marco Scutaro;
First Base: Kevin Youkilis vs. Adrian Gonzalez;
Gonzalez. Both are phenomenal defenders. Youkilis has shown himself to be one of the all-time great defensive first basemen after not only earning a gold glove but also setting the record for most error-less games in-a-row. Gonzalez, although he holds no records, has won two gold gloves.
Offensively, Youkilis has a better career OBP and batting average. However, Gonzalez’s numbers are hurt by his first two years in Texas, where he played sparingly. Once in San Diego, he began to put up massive numbers. His OBP is just 20 points lower than Kevin Youkilis’ ridiculous .394.
His batting average, .288, is just 6 points less than Youk’s .294, and both strike out with the same regularity (both averaging about 120 K’s/season).
However, it is A-Gon’s home run total that sets him apart. He average 32 bombs per season to Youk’s 23, and he also averages more RBI.
Nonetheless, it is not as if the Sox lost Kevin Youkilis, so his abilities are still a part of this lineup.
Third Base: Kevin Youkilis vs. Adrian Beltre;
Youkilis. I think it safe to say that Beltre will not be a part of this team next season, simply because there’s no space for him at either corner of the infield. Youkilis is a more consistent fielder than Beltre, although Adrian does have a knack for flashy, bare-handed plays.
Still, Youkilis isn’t afraid to get down and dirty on any play, and makes his share of highlight plays as well. Offensively, as I mentioned earlier, Beltre has had two good seasons, both in contract years. With a long-term deal likely on its way, Beltre won’t be in a contract year for quite some time.
Youk has better career numbers in terms of average and OBP, and has consistently put up his high numbers. Beltre, if his two fluke seasons are not considered, is a career .265 hitter who barely averages 20 HR/season.
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia vs. Victor Martinez;
Martinez. There’s no way around this one. Martinez is just a better player compared to Salty. He’s a proven veteran who can put up big numbers in key situations.
As a whole, the Sox have a more balanced offensive attack with more weapons, including speed and power. The only flaw I see with the current lineup is how lefty-heavy it is. Only Pedroia, Youk, Scutaro and Salty are right-handed hitters.
Against the Yankees, who will feature C.C. Sabathia, potentially Andy Pettite, and possibly Cliff Lee (all pitchers who are very tough on lefty hitters), the Sox may have trouble.
Luckily, they have players coming off the bench who showed that they had starting capabilities last year, including Daniel Nava and Darnell MacDonald.
It is clear the Sox are a better team with Crawford, but they also cut the Rays’ squad apart by removing their most potent weapon.
Both the Sox and Yankees had a better record than the Rays last year. The Rays have gotten worse, and the Sox have improved.
The AL East is once again a two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees.
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