J.P. Crawford was once the prototypical defensive shortstop. Great with the glove, but subpar with the bat. That changed in 2023, and it was a positive sight. While Crawford is no longer a plus defender, his offense exploded this season, and it led to the highest WAR total of his career (4.9 fWar).
Over his first four years in Seattle, Crawford averaged a wRC+ of 97, making him a slightly below-average offensive player. However, he had a +6 and +8 DRS in 2020 and 2021. 2022 was a down year for him as a whole, as his offense was slightly improved (103 wRC+), but for the first time in his Mariners career, he was a negative defender (-4 DRS, -0.3 UZR).
This season, Crawford had objectively his worst defensive season. He posted a -3 DRS and a -5.0 UZR, his second-worst and worst marks. However, he was so good offensively that he more than made up for it.
Crawford had a power surge in 2023, hitting 19 home runs, 10 more than his previous career-best. He set new career highs in wRC+ (134), BB% (18.4), OPS (.814), and even BsR (1.6). This offensive outburst came in clutch for a Seattle offense that saw down years for typical run-producers such as Eugenio Suarez and Ty France.
Is this level of offense sustainable for Crawford? He increased his barrel rate from 2.0 in 2022 to 4.9 this year, and his solid contact percentage jumped from 4.7 to 6.5. However, his cumulative barrel plus solid contact rate (11.4%) was still lower than the rate of all MLB players (12.7%). Per Baseball Savant, his SLG outpaced his xSLG by roughly .06, and while his hard hit rate increased, he was still only in the 21st percentile.
However, Crawford's main offensive value is his eye. He was in the 96th percentile in BB% and the 95th percentile in Chase Rate. His xOBP was in the 92nd percentile. This contributed to an overall xwOBA in the 65th percentile. Translation: While some parts of Crawford's offensive production are due to decrease next year, he still made significant improvements that, paired with his great plate discipline, Crawford is likely to remain an above-average hitter for years to come.
Crawford's defensive decline is certainly a concern, but this year, he was a great hitter for a shortstop. His overall value was that of an All-Star, so Crawford receives an overall grade of B+. If he can regain some of his defensive value and continue to produce offensively, Crawford has a chance to be one of the best shortstops in baseball next year.