Lead-off hitters are critical for any successful baseball team, and over the years I have seen several. As a Braves fan, the great 1990’s teams had Otis Nixon as the tablesetter. At the turn of the decade, the Braves had Rafael Furcal.
As we enter a new decade, it appears there is a return to speed instead of relying solely to the homerun, so having a multi-talented lead-off hitter is vital.
Former Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford has had a productive baseball career. However, after nine years the Rays and Crawford parted ways and in 2011, the All-Star outfielder will sign with a new team.
If the talented Crawford is able to maintain his current production, he could become the next Rickey Henderson, who was the last lead-off player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
As Crawford enters the 2011 season, the 29-year old outfielder has close to 1,500 hits and has over 400 stolen bases. Crawford may not have the power of a Rickey Henderson, but he has the ability to hit 20 to 25 home runs a year.
Baseball over the past decade has mainly focused on homeruns, but Crawford has brought back the art of stealing bases and manufacturing runs with the need of a homerun. Crawford was a part of the Rays’ playoff teams –one was in 2008 and the other was in 2010.
Where will Crawford go? He has been one of the most sought-after free agents after the 2010 season ended. Teams such as the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers could be interested in the multi-talented Crawford.
San Francisco has a huge ballpark and an athletic outfielder who can cover a lot of ground defensively along with hitting the ball to the gaps in which he could become a league-leader in triples as he was in the American League.
Texas would be a great place as well. Crawford’s hometown is Houston, so signing with the Rangers may be a possibility.
Wherever Crawford goes, expect him to make an impact.
Among lead-off hitters, here is my Top 5:
1. Carl Crawford (Rays) Crawford has stolen 409 bases in his nine years with Tampa. additionally, he has been among the league leaders in triples while with the Rays. In one game, he had stolen six bases. In 2004 through 2006, he had at least 15 triples per season. In 2004, he had 19 triples.
2. Ichiro Sazuki (Mariners): Ichiro is a future Hall of Famer, and even as he enters his 30’s, he is still an effective base stealer. One of his achievements that may not be broken is the number of 200-hit season that he has had consecutively.
3. Juan Pierre (White Sox) : Pierre was instrumental in the 2003 Florida Marlins winning a World Series. Despite having little power, he continues to steal bases at a high rate. In 2010, he stole 68 bases.
4. Jose Reyes (Mets): When healthy, Reyes can be the best in the game. Reyes can hit for power and get his fair share of stolen bases and triples.
5. Rajai Davis (Athletics): Davis might be the least-known on this list, but he has quietly put together a resume with the A’s that makes him one of the better lead-ff hitters in baseball.