Entering just his third full season in the majors, Brandon Crawford has shown flashes of brilliance at shortstop. While he has struggled at the plate as just a .241 lifetime hitter, Crawford will put it all together and have a breakout season in 2014.
Let’s talk about Crawford’s fielding first. He has all the tools to become an elite shortstop.
Good range? Check.
Cannon for an arm? You bet.
Nice footwork? Oh yeah.
In 2013, Crawford started 139 games and finished the season with a .974 fielding percentage, 14th among shortstops in Major League Baseball. Although Crawford committed 15 errors, 10 of them came before the All-Star break. The young shortstop was able to shake off his early-season jitters and finish his season strong in the field.
This year, Crawford has the opportunity to assert himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Starlin Castro may be the household names at the position, but now it is time for Crawford to be thrown into the mix. If Crawford can cut down on his early-season errors, there is no reason to think he can’t be a Gold Glove contender.
At the plate, Crawford has the potential to be a very good hitter. Last season he showed he could hit for power as he smacked five home runs and had 14 RBI in April. He was hitting .294 on June 14 but saw that spiral down to .248 by the end of the season.
Crawford started chasing bad pitches and finished the year with 96 strikeouts, 10th highest in the majors among shortstops. He hit .172 with runners in scoring position last season and must improve that split to be more productive in 2014.
According to fangraphs.com, Crawford swung at pitches outside the strike zone 34.7 percent of the time in 2012 and 31.7 percent in 2013. If Crawford can continue to become more disciplined at the plate, he will see big improvement.
It is clear that Crawford is in the starting lineup because of his defense, but he still has the ability to hit .280 or .290 as he did for three months of last season. Crawford has two full years of experience as a starting shortstop and should develop even more confidence this season. Bottom line is don’t be surprised if the young shortstop does big things in 2014.