By the time September wraps up, Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford will have nearly doubled the number of games he played a season ago with Philadelphia, having appeared in 83 entering Wednesday night’s outing in Pittsburgh.
He will end up with nearly twice as many plate appearances in this single season — he’s already exceeded 350 — than he had logged in his entire major league career, dating back to his debut in 2017.
The number of innings he’s played at shortstop — more than 714 entering Wednesday — should almost triple his previous two years when he notched fewer than 300 combined.
Meaning, the Mariners have seen plenty of Crawford in his first season with the organization and have a clear idea of what they want to see out of their shortstop of the future moving into 2020 and beyond.
“He’s done a lot of good things this year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said recently. “Really good defense. He’s made a lot of strides there. We saw him get really hot with the bat for a while. We saw him cool off. One thing he’s done pretty consistently since he’s been here, though, is (making good) swing decisions, controlling the strike zone. I like what I’ve seen.
“Big offseason ahead for him. … He’s right near the top of the list on what he could do to better himself, better his body and get fully prepared to play an entire major league season.”
When healthy — Crawford has missed about a month total since his promotion in May with separate ankle and hamstring injuries — Servais believes Crawford is the type of player who could play 150 games in a season. It’s just a matter of getting stronger.
Crawford said recently he’s worked more extensively in the weight room this season than he has in the past, has done extra stretching, daily shoulder work and taken care of his arm, which have all been key and enhanced his performance on the field.
“I feel like overall I took care of my body this year a lot better than I have before,” he said.
He’s had promising results during different pockets of the season, working to a .232/.320/.382 slash with 20 doubles, four triples, six homers, 40 RBI, five stolen bases and 40 walks to 75 strikeouts.
While the 12 errors he’s committed in the field aren’t incredibly efficient, he’s made a few eye-popping defensive plays showcasing his season-long growth and has taken initiative as an infield leader, despite being flanked by veterans Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager.
“He likes taking control on the field,” Servais said. “It’s something that I talked about with him right after we acquired him. I think it’s important that your shortstop, center fielder, catcher have those attributes, and I think he does, and we’ve given him opportunity for those to come out, and they have.”
Servais said the Mariners would like to continue to create a platform for Crawford to lead moving forward. His intelligence for situations, ability to make adjustments between innings or quickly pivot if a strategy needs to change, are valuable, especially in the middle infield.
“He knows what he’s doing on a baseball field,” Servais said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much time you have or how much experience you have. People realize that, and they follow you.”
Crawford said his continuous work with infielders coach Perry Hill — getting his footwork right and his body lined up to the bases correctly — has also made a significant difference between February and September.
“Since high school, I’ve been taught defense wins games,” Crawford said. “We’re going out there, getting our reps every day, and it makes the game easy. … I go out there with confidence, knowing I can make any play. Just making that routine play now, it’s day and night (from what it was), thanks to Perry.”
With Crawford in his first week back from a nagging hamstring injury, Servais is hopeful for a productive two weeks.
“J.P.’s done what we needed him to do,” Servais said. “Getting him up here, I think he knows he’s a part of what we’re trying to do going forward — a big part of it — from both sides of the ball, not just defensively, but offensively — he’s got a lot of room for growth there as well.
“It’s been a good year for him, and we’ve still got some games left to play and a chance for him to finish it up really strong.”
Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League opened its season Wednesday night, with several Mariners prospects playing for the Peoria team, highlighted by outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez.
“Our players are good,” Servais told reporters in Pittsburgh. “We know they’re good. They know they’re good. It’s a good experience for … some of these guys to get against top-flight competition. It’s just good to be in that environment.”
Servais said he, like so many others, has paid extra attention to Seattle’s minor league system this season with so many intriguing players coming up.
“Why wouldn’t you? We’re building toward the future,” Servais said. “We knew when we left spring training our roster was in a transitional mode, and some guys weren’t going to be with us long term. They know that. I think even after we got past the trading deadline now, it’s been a little bit more of, this is who we are. This is the team we have going forward.
“There’s going to be more added to it that is coming up from within. But, I think we finally, hopefully, have a situation organizationally here where there is some consistency.”
Here’s the full list of Mariners farmhands playing:
▪ RHP Sam Delaplane
▪ LHP Aaron Fletcher (No. 27 prospect)
▪ LHP Raymond Kerr
▪ RHP Penn Murphy
▪ INF Jose Caballero
▪ INF Joe Rizzo (No. 20 prospect)
▪ OF Jarred Kelenic (No. 1 prospect)
▪ OF Julio Rodriguez (No. 2 prospect)