It’s critical to temper expectations. In probably 90-95% of players, you’re going to be glad you didn’t let your emotions get the better of you, because unless you’re the elite of the elite, you’re going to disappoint if expectations run unchecked.
A lot gets heaped on J.P. Crawford because he’s one of the first major pieces of this great Mariners rebuild. Some people wrote him off almost immediately, which is kind of going too far the other direction, but I understand the impulse. But, as the most Major League-ready prospect we acquired prior to the 2019 season, we’ve had the longest look at Crawford, with decidedly mixed results.
He was called up in May of 2019 and played pretty regularly through the rest of that season, minus a couple of stints. He was streaky, but overall pretty bad. COVID shortened the 2020 season to 60 games, but in that smaller sample you did see improvement in a lot of areas. He won a Gold Glove as a short stop, for starters. He jacked up his batting average about 30 points, though he sacrificed some of the pop he showed in 2019. But, through it all, you could see him blossom. His confidence grew. He was a big part of a team that contended for a wild card spot to the bitter end. It was fair to wonder what his numbers would’ve looked like over a full 162-game season, but it was promising to see that he didn’t go the other way.
His month of April this year was pretty shabby, and I think a lot of Mariners fans were ready to write off 2020 as a fluke, or at best the peak of his abilities. But, since May, he’s really turned on the afterburners. He’s already put up a 2.8 WAR production and we’re just 91 games into the season. Notice that’s 50% more games than was played in 2020 (when his WAR was 1.6), and he’s another leap and bound better than he was then.
.279/.341/.391. 92 hits, 22 doubles, and anecdotally he seems to be in just about every single big Mariners rally this season. And it doesn’t appear to be abnormally driven by good luck with batted balls. He’s seeing pitches better, he’s hitting them harder, resulting in more line drives. Everything about what he’s doing looks sustainable!
Lots of experts and fans have talked about the number of free agent short stops that could hit the market after this season. I think everyone considered it a foregone conclusion that the Mariners would be significant buyers in this market. But, if Crawford continues to pull his weight in this fashion, that frees us up to go after a different position of need. Maybe get one of the premium third basemen on the market. Maybe a second baseman. Maybe go after a top shelf starting pitcher or a couple elite relievers. He’s still arbitration eligible for the next three seasons, so his price will go up, but it won’t be in that realm of a top tier free agent short stop. He’s still going to be a bargain through 2024 if he continues to play this way. And, in that time, if the Mariners opted to extend him, I don’t think he’d command top tier money on the open market, so we could retain him for 2025 and beyond at a reasonable figure.
All great! I couldn’t be happier with J.P. Crawford! I mean, I guess I could, but again, we’re tempering expectations around here. And in these times, that means Crawford is exceeding expectations, which is always A-OK in my book.