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What J.P. Crawford’s emergence says about what’s coming for the Mariners

J.P. Crawford is taking off in his fifth season in the big leagues. (Getty)

One of the stars of the Mariners’ recent hot streak has been shortstop J.P. Crawford, who has been a pleasant surprise for the team as he wasn’t exactly expected to be in the All-Star conversation entering this season.

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While Crawford did win a Gold Glove in 2020, his bat had yet to catch up with his defense. That’s been a different story over the last month or so, though, as the 26 year old has established himself not just as Seattle’s leadoff hitter but as a rising player to watch.

The path that Crawford, who has a .281/.341/.404 slash line this season, took to breaking out is something Mariners fans should put some stock into, as 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil explained.

“J.P. Crawford might be Exhibit A for what (the Mariners have) talked about with the development of young players not being linear,” O’Neil said on Monday’s edition of Danny and Gallant. “You see guys take leaps. J.P. Crawford’s taken an absolute gigantic leap with his average, his power numbers. … Power’s not going to be game, but showing a little bit more pop certainly makes him a lot more lethal.”

What O’Neil is pointing to is that players who come into the big leagues as high-ranked prospects don’t always hit the ground running right away. Crawford is the perfect example.

A first-round pick by the Phillies in 2013, Crawford debuted with Philadelphia in 2017 at the age of 22 but never found his groove there. After hitting .214 in 72 games over two seasons, he was traded to Seattle, and the offensive numbers still were lower than anyone would have hoped for in 2019 and 2020.

Crawford had played a maximum of 93 MLB games in a single season before this year, though, and he’s started to thrive as he’s stayed healthy in 2021. In addition to his smooth defense, he currently has an eight-game hitting streak and is running a .348/.394/.573 slash line (.967 OPS) over his last 22 games.

He’s also playing with a lot of swagger right now.

“Everything about J.P. right now says confidence,” Michael Bumpus, filling in for Paul Gallant, said Monday to O’Neil.

Now here’s why Mariners fans should put stock into the way Crawford’s emergence came about. As O’Neil pointed out, development is not always linear for every young player. While not every prospect turns out, others sometimes take a few seasons to find success in the big leagues. And the Mariners may have more players on their roster who may be on their way to breaking out like Crawford has.

For example, Sunday’s hero for the Mariners, Shed Long Jr.

Long, a 25-year-old second baseman/outfielder, had a .223 average and .677 OPS in 76 MLB games entering this season. But after coming off the injured list earlier this month following his recovery from offseason shin surgery, he’s showed signs that he is figuring things out at the plate. In his last seven games, he has a .320/.346/.600 slash line (.946 OPS), including Sunday’s gigantic walkoff grand slam.

“Last year, we were hyped on Shed Long,” O’Neil said.

“Almost forgot about him (before this season),” said Bumpus.

O’Neil continued: “He didn’t hit last year. Honestly, they would have hoped that Shed Long took the step that it looked like Dylan Moore did (in 2020). So going into this year, it was like, well, (second base) is going to be Dylan Moore’s job. … Maybe (Long’s injury) affected him more than we know, but he might be taking a leap right now. He’s hitting really well. His production over that weekend series and what we’ve seen in this homestand is a really, really positive sign.”

If Long and other young players like Jake Fraley and Luis Torrens start to take off similarly to how Crawford did, it could be a huge development as the Mariners’ rebuild gets close to landing.

“Getting that kind of production from younger players, that’s how you turn something around more so than just getting one guy who comes in and pops,” O’Neil said.

Listen to the full conversation in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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