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Mariners SS J.P. Crawford
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Dipoto: Crawford up there with Lewis for most impressive Mariners so far

Mariners SS J.P. Crawford is tied for the MLB lead in walks so far. (Getty)

The youngest team in baseball, the Mariners enter the final game of their second series of the year looking for a series win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after a 10-7 win Wednesday night that saw Seattle score nine runs in the final four innings.

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So far, the short 60-game season has looked pretty standard for how many expected the Mariners to look in 2020, including the team’s general manager Jerry Dipoto.

What gets lost in the shuffle is coming into 2020,” Dipoto said to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Thursday on the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show, “we had kind of forecasted that’s what this season would be about was putting a young and fun athletic team on the field and then giving them opportunities and then sizing up what our needs might be once we get to the second half after watching players grow, and feeling that moving into 2021 we had a chance to be a really competitive team in our division and grow into that type of playoff contender. And we’re seeing that, the fun things, the young players with talent and the rocky roads that do come with integrating young players to the big leagues.”

Seattle’s pitching has been knocked around so far as the pitchers aim to get on track, but some of the young position players that the organization hopes to build around are impressing at the big league level already.

“I guess it would be a 1 and a 1-A for me and that would be J.P. Crawford and Kyle Lewis,” Dipoto said when asked to pick the player who has stood out the most.

Lewis has been one of the most talked about players in the league already this year, as entering Thursday, his .458 batting average is the best in the league for anyone who has played five or more games. His 11 hits also lead the league. Lewis smacked two home runs in the opening series in Houston, including this deep homer off of reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, and he’s also shown the ability to hit to the opposite field. He has multiple hits in four consecutive games and at least one hit in each game.

Lewis’ WAR (wins above replacement) per Fangraphs is 0.6, tied for best in the league. Right behind him, though, is Crawford, with 0.5 WAR. Crawford enters the seventh game of the year hitting .368 with seven hits, five runs scored and two triples. His approach has led him to walk seven times, tied for the most in MLB, and that has really stood out to Dipoto, who singled out Crawford’s long at-bat on Wednesday that resulted in a two-run single.

“J.P. Crawford, and I’ve mentioned this on a couple of different episodes, but he spent his offseason addressing everything we talked to him about ending last year,” he said. “The focus, I think that at-bat last night where he drove in the two runs and got it to 10 pitches epitomizes what he’s done … He’s growing into the player that he’s always had the chance to be and it’s really exciting to watch.”

Crawford is a former top-10 pick of the Phillies and was the organization’s top prospect for quite some time. He struggled at the big-league level in Philadelphia and the rebuilding Mariners acquired him in a trade that sent veteran shortstop Jean Segura to the East Coast. Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle shortly after the trade that during an exercise of having each member of the front office fill out a 25-man roster that could realistically be put together through trades and free agency and nearly every person there labeled Crawford as a potential shortstop of the future for the Mariners.

Crawford started 2019 in Triple-A before being called up and taking over at shortstop the rest of the way. Dipoto is now seeing a player at the plate and in the field who can be the Mariners’ shortstop for the quite some time like the front office initially thought.

“I don’t think there’s any question. What we saw last year offensively, very (streaky),” Dipoto said. “He was very hot early and then really struggled late … And in J.P.’s case, the one thing we saw progressively get better and better was the defense and, a sloppy throw last night aside, his defense has been awesome since the first day of the season and really we saw it in both versions of spring training and summer camp and again, he’s come so far.”

Don’t sleep on Evan White

Lewis and Crawford are getting the most attention of the young players as far as their contributions at the plate, but Dipoto is also pleased with the play of his rookie first baseman Evan White, who made his MLB debut on opening day after signing a long-term contract this offseason.

White’s glove is considered one of the best among all prospects regardless of position. That’s been on full display through six games.

“I hate to say it’s as advertised, but it should be as advertised,” he said.

White also picked up his first MLB hit and home run in the first series and though he’s hitting just .167 thus far, Dipoto and company are excited about what they’ve seen.

“He’s been phenomenal and we think his swing is in a good place,” he said. “He’s hitting the ball hard and just like we’ve talked over the last couple of years with Kyle Lewis and with Evan White as they’ve gone through the minor leagues, when you have a good swing, you’re hitting the ball hard and making good swing decisions, eventually good things will happen and we really believe that’s going to be the case with Evan White as well.”

Listen to Dipoto’s full discussion with Danny and Gallant at this link or in the player below at the 27:18 mark.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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