Carl Crawford a sure-fire first-rounder

Updated: December 9, 2010, 3:40 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

New Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford has been one of fantasy's top players for years, finishing second on the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater in 2010, and fifth the year before. Now that he's agreed to a seven-year contract to officially leave the Tampa Bay Rays for the division rival Red Sox, there remains little risk from a fantasy aspect. Crawford was the No. 9 selection in ESPN average live drafts in 2010, and I'd argue he was going to be bumped up a few spots no matter where he ended up. It sure doesn't hurt that he'll be hitting at the top of the mighty Red Sox order.

In terms of the raw numbers, nobody can match Crawford's consistent production of batting average, stolen bases and enough power to make a difference. Since the start of the 2003 season, Crawford has stolen 400 bases, a cool 50 per year. His career batting average is .296, with a mark better than .300 in five of the past six seasons. None of the other top five players in stolen bases since 2003 (Juan Pierre, Jose Reyes, Chone Figgins and Scott Podsednik) have approached Crawford's totals in home runs or runs scored. While Crawford is not a big-time power guy, he did hit 19 home runs last season, and 15 or more in four of six seasons. I honestly don't think switching home ballparks from Tropicana Field to Fenway Park will make much of a big-picture difference; if anything, the fact that Crawford won't enjoy running wild against Red Sox catchers (62 of 66 on steals lifetime!) could be noted as the only negative. Now he'll run on Rays backstops instead.