At the moment Coco Crisp is listed as the Red Sox starting center-fielder. For a variety of reasons, I feel as though this will not be true once the season starts.
Center field is the ONLY position which will see a different starter in 2008 than in 2007. Jacoby Ellsbury shot through the minors last year, hitting .452 in 73 ABs at AA Portland, then hitting .298 in 363 ABs at AAA Pawtucket. He then hit .353 in 116 ABs with the big club.
Oh yeah, he was also a candidate for World Series MVP, going 7 for 16 (.438) with 4 doubles and 3 RBI. It would have been amazing had he won it, considering he still hadn't had an official rookie season.
Ellsbury became a pop star overnight in Red Sox Nation, but we must remember that he's only 24 and only has a mere half season of AAA experience. It's hard not to expect big things from him because he's already given the Sox big things. But he's still a rookie.
Ellsbury will start the season as the leadoff hitter. His speed (50 for 57 in SB attempts at all levels last year) will help Youkilis, Ortiz, and Ramirez knock in more runs. He's a smart baserunner too, and doesn't run into many outs.
Ellsbury is my pre-season pick for AL Rookie of the Year. I think he'll hit around .310, steal 30 bases, and score 100 runs. But when it comes to rookies, one never does know. And despite Ellsbury's performance in 2007, he's still a rookie.
Coco Crisp is on the trading block, but there haven't been any takers...yet. It's safe to say Crisp has been a disappointment since coming to Boston. His defense has amazed, but his offense has offended.
Crisp went from being a .300 hitter in Cleveland, to a .260s hitter in Boston. He's had some injury problems, but last year there were no excuses. Crisp hit .268 (league average: .278), had an OBP of .330 (league average: .346), and slugged .382 (league average .435).
He was a good baserunner (7 triples, 28 of 34 in SB attempts), and a great defensive center-fielder (.998 fielding percentage, 7 outfield assists, above average range). But he went from being a potential Lenny Dykstra to a reincarnation of Darren Lewis. Great glove, speedy legs, mediocre bat.
If the Sox can't get a good deal for Coco, he'd still be a good asset to the team. His defensive abilities and his speed make for a great bench player. And having someone with experience behind Ellsbury would provide insurance in case Jacoby needs more time in the minors.
If Coco departs, the center field depth chart gets a bit more complicated. Brandon Moss will be in AAA, and can fill-in if Jacoby gets hurt or struggles. But he would also be a rookie. Bobby Kielty would be a veteran fill-in, although Drew would probably move to center with Kielty playing right.
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