J.P. Crawford: A Gold Glover at Shortstop… but is it enough?

Sep 26, 2020; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford throws the ball to first base. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Oakland, California, USA; Seattle Mariners Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford throws the ball to first base. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /
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J.P. Crawford walks off the field after the inning ends
TORONTO, ON – AUGUST 17: J.P. Crawford, 2020 Gold Glover of the Seattle Mariners leaves the field at the end of the eighth inning. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Keeping J.P. Crawford

It’s what you would think of when taking a look at a 25-year-old shortstop who is fresh off a gold glove with four years of control left.

A part of this decision is about appeasing the fans. When was the last time that the Mariners had a promising young shortstop? Do you want to take a second and think about it? Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

You could argue Ketel Marte. That would be reasonable, but he doesn’t play that position anymore, switching once he left Seattle.

Brad Miller? I don’t think he fits the mold either. Sure, we liked him, but he didn’t have near the promise or ceiling that was assigned to Crawford.

Then there’s Mike Morse. Never really played as much shortstop as we thought he would, and struggled as a Mariner.

Yuniesky Betancourt had some pretty good seasons for the Mariners and did it while he was young. He was an okay defender, but again, he just wasn’t expected to be great.

Figure it out yet?

It’s the year 2001, and Alex Rodriguez is gone. Enter the young shortstop that the Mariners had traded for, along with Freddy Garcia (I miss that sweaty guy) for Randy Johnson. Carlos Guillen has played a bit like a utility guy, filling in behind David Bell, Mark McLemore, and A-Rod over the past two seasons.

He’s probably the last, real, prospect that we have had that seemed promising and had high expectations at shortstop. We’ve had nice seasons from Betancourt, Josh Wilson, and others, but Guillen was probably the last one. If you want to argue he doesn’t even count (He was 25, and probably didn’t have a season as Crawford has), I would understand.

That means the answer is A-Rod.

We haven’t had a real shortstop prospect produce this millennium. We’ve had prospects. We’ve had shortstops produce. What we haven’t had is both. That’s the biggest argument, to me, for keeping J.P. Crawford. It’s been so long since we have had hope and a legitimate answer at the position. I’m 32 now and was in middle school the last time it happened.

The Gold Glove defense is likely going to stay. It does in most cases. If the bat can pick up a little bit, we are going to be looking at Crawford sliding into the second tier of shortstops in baseball. He would still be below those top guys, but a Gold glove Defender who hits .255, with a decent eye, 10-15 homers a year, and 15-20 steals is nothing to scoff at, and would easily fill the role for the next ten years.

But what if… what if Crawford could become a good to a great hitter as well? Is it really that far fetched?

Crawford’s going to be 26. He is approaching his prime, and should still be improving, at least hopefully, over the next couple of years. He hit .255, with two homers, six steals, and a decent eye, holding an OBP eighty points over his average.

What if he improves the average to .270? Finds a bit of power like division hopefully rival Andrelton Simmons did in a few of his season, and ends up in the 15 home run range. The speed stays there, and the steals increase as he gets on a bit more from the better average. Six steals in 50 games becomes 25 steals in a full season. The OBP separation stays about the same, and he ends up with a slash line of 270/355/385.

Gold Glove defense. A 15/25 split on homers and steals. Good average.

That sounds like a solid foundational piece that the team could help build around, planning on being a part of the squad long term, hopefully with Rodriguez, Kelenic, and some of the other top prospects the team is going to be seeing over the next few years.

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