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|Coco Crisp had 20 steals despite playing just 118 games last season.|
Ellsbury might have felt like an everyday player in his 2008 rookie season, having amassed 609 plate appearances, though a closer look at the numbers indicates that he played 1,174 of 1,446 1/3 innings, or 81.2 percent of the team's total, and pinch hit only once. Give him closer to 95 percent -- which he'll probably get in 2009 -- and he'd be a 700-plus PA player, perhaps up to 725 if he's the leadoff man, as he was 114 times this past season.
Considering Ellsbury managed 50 stolen bases and 98 runs scored in those 609 PAs, in spite of those horrendous sub-.280 on-base percentages he racked up in June and July, aren't you excited by the prospect of him playing every single day? A 50-steal, 100-run season would be a virtual lock, and this is a guy certainly capable of batting .300 and cracking double-digit home runs, if not in 2009 then soon thereafter. Ellsbury will make a case for top-75 overall status come draft day, and since he's one of the few players speedy enough to breeze past 50 steals, a top-50 season can't be considered impossible.
Crisp, in Kansas City, might be a "lite" version of that, by comparison. Like Ellsbury now in Boston, Crisp will stand more of a chance at regular at-bats himself in Kansas City. The Royals have been rumored for weeks to be shopping one or both of David DeJesus and Mark Teahen, so Crisp should earn 600-plus plate appearances, like he used to receive back in his days in Cleveland. He's a .280 lifetime hitter who swiped 20 bags as a part-timer in 2008. As a 29-year-old who still has potential for 15-homer power and near .300-hitting ability, there's value in him as a potential fourth/fifth fantasy outfielder.
Speaking of potential DeJesus/Teahen trades, the Cubs and Mariners had been linked previously to Teahen, and the Yankees have a center-field opening, if DeJesus is of interest to them. Chances are that DeJesus will be on the move, not that fantasy owners will be too excited; even in his career-year 2008, he managed but 12 home runs, 11 stolen bases and fell far short of 100 runs scored or RBIs. DeJesus will surely be drafted higher than Crisp ... but there are destinations for him that would make Crisp the smarter selection.
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.