Even if J.P. Crawford isn’t an All-Star, he’s been the Mariners’ star
The initial rosters for the MLB All-Star Game were revealed Sunday, with just one member of the Mariners (45-40) – starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi – picked to represent Seattle on the American League team at Coors Field on July 13.
While Kikuchi is certainly deserving of his first All-Star selection, there is a case to be made for one his teammates to join him on the AL squad: shortstop J.P. Crawford.
Regardless of whether or not the 26-year-old Crawford finds his way onto the AL team over the next week as a replacement for a player who will be unavailable to play in Denver, there’s no denying that Crawford has established himself as a breakout star for the surprising 2021 Mariners. For evidence of that, all you have to look at is Friday night.
With the Mariners and Rangers tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Crawford came up to the plate with a runner on second and two outs. And in the first game since 2019 where T-Mobile Park was open to full capacity, the crowd of 28,638 broke out into a chant of “J.P., J.P., J.P.”
Crawford responded by slapping a single through a hole in the left side of the infield, bringing Jake Fraley home for a key run in Seattle’s 5-4 win in extra innings.
“That was the coolest thing in my life on a baseball field, by far,” Crawford told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on the field during the Mariners radio broadcast at the end of the game. “I’ve never had a stadium chanting my name before, and when that happens, you gotta come through. You just gotta come through.
“That was unreal.”
HE WANTED IT. HE GOT IT. pic.twitter.com/FJMf2GGzjZ
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 3, 2021
Crawford’s been coming through a lot this season. He is currently on a 21-game on-base streak, tied for the longest of his career, and has hit safely in 26 of his last 28 games. He’s hit well essentially since May and for the season owns a .289/.348/.406 slash line, but he’s especially been on fire since the start of June. In 30 games since June 1, his slash is .352/.403/.523, good for a .923 OPS. And according to the Mariners’ baseball information department, entering Sunday Crawford had the most hits (41) and doubles (12) among AL players since June 3.
Don’t forget about his defense, either. In addition to what’s he done at the plate as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter, the 2020 AL Gold Glove winner has been one of the most valuable defensive players in the game, owning a 1.3 defensive WAR.
So why hasn’t Crawford been invited to join the All-Star festivities? He plays in a league that is exceptionally deep at shortstop, and even with his stellar play in the field, his lack of traditional power numbers hold him back against the likes of Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, Houston’s Carlos Correa and Toronto’s Bo Bichette, who all made the AL roster.
Seattle’s general manager backs his cause, though.
When Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy last Friday afternoon, he said he thinks Crawford should be an All-Star and had several reasons why.
“What we’ve seen from J.P. is steady evolution,” Dipoto said. “What he’s done defensively truly since he’s been here, he’s continued to get better. I think he might be the best defensive player in baseball – just period – at this point. He’s been outstanding at shortstop, which as you know is a premium position, perhaps as important as any on the field. He does a phenomenal job.”
Dipoto also gave Jacob Nottingham credit for an assist with Crawford’s breakout offensively. That’s because Nottingham, a catcher the Mariners claimed on waivers in late April and a friend of Crawford’s going back to their teenage years when they were both prospects out of Southern California, gifted Crawford some of his bats that turned out to be just the right fit.
Of course, Dipoto also gave Crawford plenty of credit.
“The evolution of his bat, especially over these last two months – props to Jake Nottingham for helping us out with getting the size of his bat right – J.P.’s been awesome,” he said. “His willingness to take a walk. We’re seeing increased power. Sometimes that is evidenced by home runs, (and) sometimes, like in J.P.’s case, it’s evidenced by exit velocities, spraying doubles and extra-base hit quality, which is I think is a big improvement in his game.”
To hear more of what Dipoto had to say about Crawford and the Mariners, listen to the podcast from Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.
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