He might have the most conversation surrounding him of any current Mariners player, maybe outside of Kyle Seager. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants a closer look at what kind of expectations we should have in 2021 for J.P. Crawford.
2021, pending any giant cancellations, postponements, or injuries, will be the first professional season for Crawford that will see him reach 100 games. He got close in 2019, playing in 93 games for the team where he played great defense and hit doubles, but not much else.
The fact is, he isn’t a great hitter yet. But his spectacular defense leads to an easy comp and one that Mariners fans should be familiar with, due to seeing him rob hits in the division for the last five years… Andrelton Simmons.
I really struggle when making the comparison to Simmons, but it might not be for the reason that you think. I don’t want to get my hopes up in thinking that we could be getting top-level Simmons out of Crawford, even though it is definitely a possibility.
Would top-level Simmons be a reasonable expectation for J.P. Crawford?
When I say top-level Simmons, here is what I mean.
Gold Glove defense, and arguably the most runs saved at a position by any player in baseball. Last year (extrapolating to a five-year average from 2015-2019), Crawford would’ve been 6th in all of baseball and 3rd as a shortstop for dWAR (somewhere around 2.5). Simmons averaged 3.8 from 2013-2018, never falling below 2.8.
A slash line of .268/.316/.380, 10 home runs, 10 steals, 60 runs, and 60 RBI. That’s what Simmons averaged over that same time frame. You could argue it was actually better than that, as he was a much better hitter from 2016-2018. .284/.331/.404 with the same home runs, but a few more steals, runs, and RBI.
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This gives Simmons an average WAR of 5.2 over a six-year period, which baseball-reference actually grades as just above All-Star quality. I may have to admit to a secret baseball crush on Simmons, but that’s neither here nor there.
Could we get a top-level Gold Glove season, 10+ home runs, 10+ steals, better than average batting average, and a worthy top of the order bat? If we do, then it would be the numbers of a shortstop that would vault into the top 10, if not top five at the position. Don’t forget, Simmons has finished in the top 15 in MVP voting three separate times. If we could get that then I think we would all be happy. Will we get it though? A guy can dream of .280/.370/.440 with 15/15 (HR/SB).
I think this is the more realistic likelihood for his result in the upcoming year. We should see a decent average, especially if 2020 is the indicator over 2019. Runs should be high, especially if he is either one or two in the lineup. He’s got a good eye as his OBP is 94 points above his career average, and was 81 above last year. That should lead to a good amount of steals.
The tough part is home runs. If he plays a full season last year, he only hits 5-6. The year before, he was on pace to hit 12-15. When it comes down to it, I think the numbers are going to look something like this.
.245/.333/.377. 7 home runs, 14 steals, 75 runs, 55 RBI, a dWAR of 3.2, and an oWAR of 1.2, which would come out to a WAR of somewhere around 3.0. Good enough for an above-average starter.
Would I love to be wrong? Yes, of course I would. Amidst all the excitement with the Seattle Mariners upcoming farm system strength, I’m really trying to temper my expectations. Please prove me wrong J.P. Crawford, and exceed expectations for 2021.