Decoding the Depth Charts: Red Sox CF

When Jacoby Ellsbury roared past Coco Crisp as the Red Sox centerfielder in the World Series last year, change seemed inevitable and irreversible. Yet it also didn’t feel quite right. Crisp is a bonafide major leaguer who went cold at the wrong time. Ellsbury may prove to be a star, but he isn’t going to stay as hot as he was during that short stretch.

So, how to project them this spring? I’ve been assuming that Crisp is going to be a regular, with 560 plate appearances projected. But I’ve got Ellsbury projected for 470. If they’re both Red Sox that’s way too many at bats. But if Crisp is traded then it’s probably too few. How do the depth charts show it?

Rotowire has Crisp as the Red Sox starter, and Ellsbury as the reserve at all three OF positions.

BaseballHQ has Crisp down for 85 percent playing time. Ellsbury for 50 percent.

The ever contrarian Rototimes likes Ellsbury as the centerfieler, with Crisp the backup.

Sandlot Shrink goes for Ellsbury as the starter, Crisp as the backup. likes Crisp as the starter, Ellsbury as the reserve at all three OF positions (which could mean a fair amount of playing time on a team starting the fragile JD Drew and the aging Manny Ramirez).

USA Today likes Ellsbury to start, Crisp to back him up, but Brandon Moss and Bobby Kielty to backup the corners.

The Rotoworld depth chart is identical to the USA Today. I suspect there is a good reason for that.

Sportsline goes with Ellsbury in center as the starter, Crisp as the backup, but Ellsbury as the backup in left field.

Yahoo’s minimalist depth chart features Ellsbury as the starter, Crisp the backup.

I have to say that I’m not swayed. The sites I know are thoughtful agree with me (Crisp the starter, Ellsbury the backup) and really the only argument I see for Ellsbury being the starter is if Crisp is traded.

Given the potential injuries to JD Drew and Manny Ramirez, and the reasonable chance that Crisp will be dealt, I’m going to stand pat for now. I’ve got too many AB in the Red Sox OF, but not too too many. For now it makes more sense to stick with the talent, and let the roles (and all important injuries) work themselves out.

The most important thing is that Crisp may be a bargain based on the feeling he’s lost the job and the chance he’ll be traded (and being hurt during spring training hasn’t helped him, for sure), and Ellsbury may be overpriced because he looks like a phenom speedster. That may be a good reason to invest in a cheap Crisp.

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