2010 Fantasy Match-Up: David Wright vs. Carl Crawford

An article by posted on January 12, 2010

There are several interesting player comparisons we can look at in the first few rounds of 2010 fantasy drafts. This season seems more muddled then normal, with very few clear-cut selections for fantasy owners to make due to injuries or epic struggles in 2009. One of the interesting debates right now comes in the second round, with David Wright (ADP 14.40) currently going a selection before Carl Crawford (ADP 15.17), on average.

Given the type of season David Wright had in 2009, does that really make sense (though, of course, your first round selection could play a role in your decision, I’m going to assume that you take a player that leaves both players likely)? Let’s take a look:

Speed:
There’s no questioning Crawford’s immense edge in the category. Outside of his injury plagued 2008 campaign, when he stole just 25 bases, he’s had at least 46 steals every year since 2003. In fact, he’s had 50 or more five times during that span including his career high of 60 last season.

He is one of the elite players in this regard, doing things that very few others are capable, especially since he contributes in other categories as well.

David Wright is no slouch when it comes to speed, but he’s far from elite. He’s had 20 or more stolen bases in three of the past four seasons, topping out at 34. It’s unlikely that he gets back to the level, though I wouldn’t say that it is impossible either.

If the Mets truly want to play a speed/defense game, they are going to open the floodgates for their baserunners to run rampant. Still, 30 seems to be the maximum level, with 25 or so a much more realistic number.

Average:
David Wright had one of those years in 2009 that is hard to explain. If you want to call it the pressure of trying to carry an offense as his teammates seemingly fell day after day due to injury. That helps to justify things later in the season, but not early on.

If you want to blame it on trying to adapt his game to the new CitiField, it’s possible, but again, it’s a tough sale. He’s proven to be too good of a hitter in the past to simply just flop like he did due to being placed in a new environment. And honestly, was Shea Stadium a hitter’s haven? Far from it.

Whatever the reason, David Wright saw his strikeout rate rise significantly. After posting a strikeout rate between 18.8% and 19.7% for four consecutive seasons, he seemed to find it impossible to make consistent contact, whiffing 26.2% of the time. People will point to that rate, and his inflated BABIP of .400, as a reason to believe his average will drop like a rock in 2010.

Again, I’m not buying it. Prior to last season he had consistently shown an ability to post a BABIP in the .350 range and I have to believe that he didn’t suddenly forget how to hit a baseball. His contact rate is going to fall, potentially significantly, so even the fall in BABIP should not result in an average that regresses too greatly.

Throw in a potential increase in power (which we’ll get to), and expecting another .300+ season should be a given.

Crawford is a career .295 hitter, but has been above .300 in four of the past five seasons. With his speed, you can expect him to once again be right around that level, since he can use his wheels to beat out some balls other wouldn’t, and therefore generate a higher BABIP. Throw in the fact that his career strikeout rate is at 15.1% and there’s nothing not to like.

While Wright has the potential to post a better average, as he has in the past, the two are close enough here to consider this a draw.

Power:
Carl Crawford is what he is in the power department. He’s shown that fantasy owners can expect between 11 and 15 home runs from him season in and season out. That’s something, giving him an advantage over other speed options for sure.

When it comes to Wright, I have to believe that last season’s major regression was a one-year thing. The CitiField argument doesn’t hold much water, because the truth of the matter is that he just wasn’t hitting the ball out of any ballpark.

You can argue that, with his stroke, he will be less likely to hit the ball out of CitiField, meaning seeing him reach 33 home runs again would be a pipe dream. That I can believe, but I just don’t buy into the belief that he’s lost his power just like that. He’s just 27-years old. How many players that age simply fall off a cliff?

The problem wasn’t the number of flyballs he hit (though they were down), he saw his HR/FB, which had been over 16% three times from 2005-2008, fall to just 6.9% in 2010. I would fully expect him to rebound, putting him back into the 22-25 range.

Runs Batted In:
Crawford isn’t supposed to be a big source of RBI, though he could be good for around 70. He’s had three seasons of 77 or more and reached 68 last season. Like I noted for the power, with a player that is an elite speed option, also being able to get this many RBI significantly boosts his value.

Wright, on the other hand, is expected to be a major bat in the Mets lineup. He had a streak of four straight 100 RBI years broken last year, but that can easily be explained by his power outage and the pathetic offense the Mets were putting on the field.

With his power returning, at least close to where it was, and the addition of Jason Bay and a healthy Jose Reyes & Carlos Beltran, you would expect Wright to again close in, if not eclipse, the 100 RBI mark.

Runs:
Both players have shown the ability to be in the vicinity of the 100 run plateau, though surprisingly Wright has had the bigger seasons in the past. Still, when Crawford has Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and company hitting behind him you have to think he’ll be back in the vicinity once again. Plus, if he can continue to draw walks like he did last season (career best 7.8% walk rate), things could be really close here.

I’d call it a draw.

Conclusion:
With average and runs being declared a draw, what this comparison really comes down to is if Wright’s power and RBI advantage overcome the huge advantage Crawford brings in stolen bases. If Wright didn’t have as many questions surrounding his power as he does, I could easily say yes, it does.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Wright’s 10 home run campaign in 2009 makes you wonder, at least a little bit, just how far back he will be able to come in 2010. Additionally, Crawford is one of the few players who can carry your team in stolen bases. For those reasons, if I had the choice between the two, I’d select Crawford in the second round.

With third base still a concern, and thinner than it has been in the past, I would target Kevin Youkilis or Ryan Zimmerman in the third or fourth round, but that’s a story for another day.

What are your thoughts between Crawford and Wright? Who would you rather have and why?

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