Crawford, coming off Tommy John surgery in August, suffered a setback in spring training that caused him to miss roughly a week of action. He made his first in-game appearance while I was in Arizona for spring training (March 17) and was, understandably, rusty. I just didn't think he had enough time to get in baseball shape and have his elbow ready for opening day.
Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.
Crawford is playing like he's back in Tampa Bay, and the Dodgers are reaping the benefits. Heading into Thursday night's game, Crawford was leading the National League batting average (.464), on-base percentage (.531) and was second in OPS (1.246), thanks to Justin Upton's six home runs.
Editor's note: Thank you, Kevin Towers, for trading Upton for "grit."
Myself and others said Crawford was a wild card in the Nick Punto trade, and so far, he's been just that. He's picked up for Matt Kemp's deficiency thus far and has served as the team's leadoff hitter. I had hoped Hanley Ramirez would be atop the Dodgers' order, but the way Crawford has taken the reins, it's clear Don Mattingly made the right decision (even if he didn't have to choose between the two because of Ramirez's injury).
Crawford has gotten in trouble on the basepaths a little bit (caught stealing twice), but he's been the team's best offensive player so far, just edging out Clayton Kershaw (and Adrian Gonzalez, I suppose).
Now, Crawford won't post a .500-plus on-base percentage the entire season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he posted a career-best OBP in 2013 (.364 in 2009 is his best). If he does that as the team's leadoff hitter, the Dodgers are going to be a dangerous team.
Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue