When the Mariners flipped Jean Segura (and others) to the Phillies for high-level prospect J.P. Crawford heading into the 2019 season, he was already coming off of two pretty nothing years in the Majors, and it felt like the bloom was already off the rose. Expectations for him have been tempered from the moment he put on a Mariners uniform.
His 2019 season didn’t really do a lot to change the perception, as he had to overcome two stints in the minors before we gave him a proper look in the second half. He was handed the starting short stop job in 2020 because it was going to be a lost year for the franchise regardless – considering where we were at in our rebuild, to say nothing of the whole pandemic thing – and even though it was only a 60-game span, we’ve seen our best look from the guy we thought MIGHT be our everyday short stop going forward.
It brings me no joy that all this time – whenever people talk about what this rebuilding plan might look like in 2022 and beyond – that everyone is still talking about the Mariners making a big splash for an All Star short stop – either in free agency, or via some blockbuster trade – and Crawford’s eventual landing spot with this team (if he manages to stick at all) will be at second base.
This is a guy who JUST won a Gold Glove! Short stop is one of the most difficult defensive positions, and he was deemed the very best in the American League! When you think about how that was never really his reputation – and you remember how much he struggled at times as recently as 2019 – it really is remarkable to see how far he’s come in his game.
It’s his hitting, though, that is probably always going to limit him. He had just-okay power numbers in 2019, but only hit for a .226 average. He sacrificed quite a bit of that nothing power in 2020 to raise his average to .255, but he otherwise doesn’t get on base nearly often enough to be a legitimate leadoff hitter. On top of that, he’s about as streaky as it gets; lack of consistency might be a bigger hurdle to overcome than the lack of pop.
Now, what we have to remember is, he’s still only 26 years old. 2021 is going to be huge for him, because he HAS Major League experience. He’s coming off of a Gold Glove win. He spent the entirety of 2020 at the Major League level; his confidence should never be higher. He has stability, he has his position on this team locked down, and we’re still at a point in the rebuild where it’s not VITAL that we make the playoffs. He has every opportunity in 2021 to break out, he just has to take advantage (and hopefully catch some breaks along the way).
So, why am I less interested in him? Because, quite frankly, I don’t know if I believe it’ll happen. I think even if he reaches his full potential, that potential isn’t as a guy you build your team around. Even if he does break out, that probably just guarantees his roster spot, but he’ll still be moved to second base if the Mariners decide to make a push for an elite short stop. If that was the plan all along when they set out on this rebuild, then I don’t think there’s anything Crawford can do – short of making a considerable showing towards the A.L. MVP – to stick at his position. And, to be an MVP candidate, you need to bring MUCH more power to the plate than he’ll ever be capable of; it just seems the entire deck is stacked against him.
I expect Crawford will be pretty much what he was last year, with probably a little more power, because I’m assuing that’s all he’s been working on this offseason. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a FINE player, but I’m just not getting my hopes up for him like I am for some of these other guys. He’ll probably be around for a while, but I don’t think he’s going to be a significant piece to this team’s future success. If anything, he might not be a detriment. The world needs ditch diggers too, you know?