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Mariners J.P. Crawford
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Dipoto: J.P. Crawford evolving into more than Mariners were hoping for

J.P. Crawford is hitting, playing elite defense and serving as a team leader for Seattle. (Getty)

When the Mariners started rebuilding in the offseason following the 2018 campaign, J.P. Crawford was famously a player that just about everybody in their front office wanted to bring aboard.

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The Mariners were able to get Crawford from the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade that cost them their talented starting shortstop at the time, Jean Segura, and while there were high hopes for Crawford, expectations were tempered. His defense probably wasn’t ever going to win him a Gold Glove at shortstop, for example.

Of course, nobody told that to Crawford, who went ahead and won the 2020 American League Gold Glove at shortstop anyways.

Hitting, meanwhile, was never too big of a concern when Crawford was a top prospect with the Phillies, but it was a struggle in his first three MLB seasons, including in 2019 when he hit just .226 with a .684 OPS for Seattle.

Here’s where the good news comes in. Crawford has found his identity at the plate this season, posting a .280/.344/.395 slash line with four home runs and 16 doubles, the last of which is tied for 10th in the AL and is just one behind Ty France for the team lead. As for his defense, it continues to be not just great but Gold Glove-caliber.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto could not be happier about how Crawford has blossomed the past two seasons.

“What he’s done really dating back to the start of last year, he’s evolved into one of the real two-way shortstops in the game,” Dipoto said Thursday morning on 710 ESPN Seattle’s weekly Jerry Dipoto Show. “While the offense might not always be as gaudy as the big stars (at shortstop) – like (Xander) Bogaerts, (Carlos) Correa and (Fernando) Tatís (Jr.) – it’s rare to find an elite defender who is an above-average offensive player, and J.P. is evolving into that.”

Dipoto had stats to back that up.

“He’s roughly carried a .340-ish on-base, which is above league average, for the last two years, which is now about 500 plate appearances. His weighted runs created is above 100 (league average is 100), and he leads all defenders at the position in defensive runs saved over that time, which is pretty significant when you can combine those two things.

“When we acquired J.P., if we would have thought for a moment we were getting a Gold Glove defender who is an above-average offensive player for the next however many years, it’s an exciting thing. And really, he’s just opening the door to his prime. That’s even more exciting.”

It’s not just Crawford’s on-field contributions that the Mariners value, either. His presence around the team is another positive development the M’s had not completely predicted.

“Now you’re starting to see his personality come out,” Dipoto said. “He is energetic, he’s a really good person, and he anchors our clubhouse in a lot of ways because of all the players we have, J.P. never lets it get going too fast. He operates slow but he picks up his pace at game time. He controls what’s happening on the field and generally carries that over to the clubhouse and the way he behaves in his relationships with the guys. He’s a great guy in the clubhouse, and those are critical elements to being a leader on a club.”

You can hear the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below, and catch a new edition live every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. during 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.

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