Sunday, May 23, 2010

Free Agent Outfield Debate: 10 Reasons Jayson Werth Would Be More In Demand Than Carl Crawford in 2011

New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

Two All-Star outfielders playing on the top team currently in each league share something else in common. Both the Tampa Bay Rays Carl Crawford and Philadelphia Phillies Jayson Werth are in the final year of their contracts and could be amongst the biggest names in the 2011 free agent market.

Each player is off to a strong start in 2010, seemingly stating his case to other team's around Major League Baseball. Considering the history of Crawford and Werth, it is not surprising that both are coming up big under the pressure of what amounts to a salary drive.

Of course, it is doubtful that either player is focused on economics right now. Instead, they are simply concentrating on doing their job and winning games— letting the rest take care of itself down the road.

2010 Performance

Crawford is currently hitting .313 with 3 HRs and 17 RBI. As usual, he is also amongst the league leaders in stolen bases with 10 and triples with 4.

In the NL, Werth's name can be located in the top 10 of many offensive rankings— including fourth in batting (.336), fifth in OBP (.414), first in doubles (20), second in SLG (.664), eighth in HRs (8), fourth in RBI (31) and fourth in runs (28.)

Here's how the two stack up against each other:


Crawford 170 35 55 14 4 3 21 .324 .381 .506 .887

Werth 153 31 50 22 0 9 33 .327 .401 .647 1.048

Considering their current and past success as well as each player being in his prime (Crawford 28, Werth 30), both players will be highly pursued if their current clubs do not lock them up with an extension.

Any team would be lucky to have either player, but the vantage from here is that Werth would be the biggest prize. Here are 10 reasons why the Phillies right fielder will be more in demand than the Rays left fielder should they both hit the market.

1 Right fielders are more valuable than left fielders.

Although a center fielder has the most impact, right field is largely considered the toughest of the outfield posts. Besides dealing with more spin on batted balls and inferior sight lines than center field, the throws are longer.

In order to be an effective right fielder, athleticism is required to get to balls quickly and a strong throwing arm is essential to keep runners from taking extra bases.

Simply put— fewer players have the necessary tools to play right, so the supply is smaller. Many teams have been known to hide their less mobile, less athletic players in left.

Position Ranking (1-10 easiest to toughest):

Crawford 3

Werth 6

2 Werth has a better arm.

Both players have excellent range, but not surprisingly, Werth has the much superior throwing arm.

Each player ranked first in putouts at his position last season. Conversely, Werth's 11 assists in 2009 were as many as Crawford recorded over the previous three seasons combined.

The impact of his strong throwing arm extends beyond assists, though. He saves countless runs by limiting opponents to advancing one base at a time for fear of being gunned down.

Arm Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 9

3 Power is King.

Power has long been "King" in Major League Baseball.

Fans pay to see "bombs" and teams pay top dollar for the players who hit them.

This is probably the largest point of differentiation between the two All-Stars.

Crawford has some pop in his bat and uses his blazing speed to stretch hits into doubles and triples. His .452 slugging percentage and 15 HRs in 2009 are respectable numbers, especially for a speed burner— but they pale in comparison to Werth's numbers.

The Phillies slugger banged out 36 "Big Flies" while registering a .506 slugging percentage. His .643 SLG in 2010 ranks behind only Andre Ethier and Ryan Zimmerman.

Power Ranking:

Crawford 5

Werth 9

4 Better run production.

Run production often goes hand in hand with power numbers. Other key factors include how much a player gets on base, raw speed and base running ability.

Like Crawford, Werth is an excellent base runner despite not being quite as fast. However, because Werth has had a superior OBP throughout his career to go along with his substantially greater power output— his overall run production is much better.

In 2009, Werth totaled 197 runs and RBI versus 164 for Crawford. The gap is on a pace to widen in 2010.

Run Production Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 8

5 Superior On Base Percentage

Batting average has long been a major measuring stick for baseball hitters. Since Money Ball was a hot read, though, On Base Percentage has been highlighted as a more comprehensive metric.

Over his eight-year career, Werth has accumulated a 28-point higher OBP despite a 27-point lower batting average. The reason is simple. His keen eye and plate discipline has allowed him to accumulate more base on balls despite having less than half the number of plate appearances.

With continuing maturation as a hitter this season, Werth has been a model of consistency. Taking a page from All-Star teammate Chase Utley, Werth has incorporated a shorter swing plane that should lessen slumps and raise his average.

OBP Ranking:

Crawford 6

Werth 8

6 Post Season Heroics

Crawford performed well in the Rays 2008 run to the World Series against the Phillies, pretty much mirroring his regular season numbers. Conversely, Werth has raised his game to a different level when the leaves have turned colors.

Over four seasons and a total of eight postseason series, Werth has come up big. He has hit a solid .285 and accumulated an outstanding .393 OBP, but has opened eyes with a spectacular power display.

In 123 postseason ABs, Werth has smacked 11 HRs and amassed a fabulous .650 SLG. And, on the biggest stage of them all, he has hit .351 with a .676 SLG in the previous two World Series.

Big Game Ranking

Crawford 7

Werth 9

7 Bigger upside

To his credit, since becoming a regular in 2003, Crawford has been a model of consistency. He has generally hit around the .300 mark and recorded 50-60 steals per season.

A prospective employer would feel secure in pursuing him knowing what type of production to expect each season. On the other hand, they also know not to expect a whole lot more.

In pursuing Werth, teams might expect even better performance over time. He is a late bloomer held back by injury earlier in his career and has a trend line that suggests the best is yet to come.

At a price of around $15 million a year, the prospect of a free agent outperforming his contract could be very enticing.

Upside Potential Ranking

Crawford 6

Werth 8

8 Intangibles

Crawford is a quiet leader on the Rays, commanding respect from years of performing at a high level. He also makes others behind him in the order a little better due to the distraction he provides as one of baseball's best base stealers.

In Philadelphia, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are the clearly established leaders. As a more recently emerged star, Werth has assimilated well with a lead-by-example approach.

He is a "gamer"— smart, instinctive and always hustling— who routinely incorporates the small things that help win games. Werth sees more pitches than any other hitter in baseball, forcing pitchers to work.

He runs the base paths aggressively, hustling to take extra bases. And, he rarely gets thrown out stealing, having recorded 20 stolen bases each of the past two seasons while being tossed out only four times combined.

Intangibles ranking

Crawford 8

Werth 9

9 World Series ring

The fact that Werth wears a World Series ring serves to reinforce that he is a winner. He has been an integral part of a Phillies team that has a growing reputation as a model organization with superb chemistry.

This affiliation only enhances Werth's image and value with potential suitors. Tampa had sudden success in 2008 and is having a fine season thus far in 2010, but the organization does not yet enjoy the same stature.

10 There is no time more important than the present

As mentioned, both players have gotten off to strong starts in 2010. For Crawford, he appears destined to replicate what he has done over the past seven seasons.

Werth's season has the look of a monster year. Reaching base in 36 of 37 games highlights his improved consistency. If his power production increases with the temperature as it normally does, Werth's 2010 numbers have the potential to be truly special.

There is no season more important than the most recent to establish a free agent's value.

2010 Projection

Crawford 7

Werth 8

The Final Tally

Category Crawford Werth

Position 3 6

Arm 6 9

Power 5 8

Run Production 6 8

OBP 6 8

Big Game Performance 7 9

Upside Potential 6 8

Intangibles 8 9

2010 Projection 7 8

Hitting for Average 8 7

Running 9 7

Range 9 9

Total 80 96

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