Over the last 3-4 years, there has been no player harder to figure out on the Mariners than JP Crawford. Since he got to Seattle in the Jean Segura trade, fans couldn't figure him out. The defense was great when he got here, enough to earn him a Gold Glove in the shortened 2020 season. However, it was the offense that left fans wondering if he could be good enough to stay as the teams shortstop.
The defense has fallen off a bit, in large part due to a below-average arm. He does have a good glove though, and holds his own at the position still. I'm not saying he's bad, but for a premier position on the field, was it enough? An OPS+ of 97 over his first four years in Seattle didn't give a ton of hope at the plate.
Maybe it was Driveline that is the sole factor for his improvement. Maybe it's one of those situations, like you will see with guards in the NBA, that he just needed to get to those prime years of 27-29 before finally figuring it out and getting comfortable. What we saw in 2023 from JP Crawford wasn't just an improvement, it was a transformation.
JP Crawford is our #4 player heading into 2024 for the Mariners
He hit .266 last year, which may not seem special, and was T-51st for all qualified hitters. However, he led the American League in walks, resulting in a .380 OBP which was 11th in baseball. Those 10 guys ahead of him are all incredible baseball players. It wasn't just the walks though, as JP Crawford had found power. In 1686 AB through his first four seasons with the Mariners, he had hit 24 homers, at a rate of one homer every 70.25 AB.
In 2023, he would destroy his previous career high and end up with 19 homers, hitting them at a rate of one every 28.1 AB. 2.5 times as often as in the past, JP was going yard. All of a sudden, the Mariners leadoff hitter was a legit threat to get on base, and at the same time, a legit threat to put the ball over the fence.
That combination of his stats gave Crawford the 13th-highest OFF rating on fangraphs, and T-2nd for any shortstop in baseball. Think about that for a minute. Not only was JP a great hitter at SS, he was one of the best in all of baseball.
If not for arguably the face of baseball in Julio Rodriguez and then two Cy Young candidates, JP would be higher in our rankings. For now, he comes in at a very deserving number 4 and looks keep his incredible 2023 going to get the Mariners back on track in 2024.