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Carl Crawford, Possible Role Model For B.J. Upton

With B.J. Upton's major struggles so far this season, there is hope for Braves fans out west. Can Carl Crawford ease some of the concerns about the Braves CF?

Lisa Blumenfeld

B.J. Upton signed a big 5-year, $75M contract this winter with Atlanta this past winter, hoping to provide some more pop to the centerfield position, replacing Michael Bourn. It's safe to say that things haven't gone as planned. A +5 UZR is nice, but a .153/.248/.258 slash line is not going to work. With strikeouts and pop-ups littering his line, fans are already trying to figure out how to get rid of him.

However, this story sounds familiar: a Tampa Bay outfielder signing a huge free-agent contract and flopping the first month. Carl Crawford hit .155/.204/.227 during April of 2011 in Boston, inciting a slight bit of panic in Red Sox Nation. K's and popups were not Crawford's problem, but he was not squaring the ball up with any authority that first month.

Contrary to popular belief, Crawford did recover the rest of the season, hitting .279./.309/.447 the last five months. While that's not the $20M production they were expecting, it was some relief for Boston knowing Crawford could make a positive impact. An elbow injury limited his 2012 season, though he played at a league-average level during his 30 games.

Moving from Boston to Los Angeles in the mega-deal last summer, Crawford made his Dodger debut this spring, and he looks like the player who signed the big contract. He's swinging at a career-low rate, though it's still a tick above league average. Add in a 25% line drive rate and a career-high HR/FB% and you get a .315/.379/.488 line. The .337 BABIP is a bit above expected and the home run rate will drop a bit, but those adjustments are not enough to diminish the fact that Crawford looks to be back as a force, even if his team isn't.

Atlanta attracts nowhere near the scrutiny and attention of Boston, but Upton is feeling some heat right now. Jordan Schafer is off to a nice start, but once he remembers he's not that good, Upton will have no competition. He has been getting on base at a decent rate the last week, but the strikeouts are still around while the power is missing. If he can pull a Crawford and rebound to a .250/.300/.450 line, or something close to that, the same sigh of relief can be gasped by Braves fans.