Crawford got into baseball at five years old, partly because of his sister, Elizac, who played softball at California State University at Fullerton. So let’s just say baseball runs in the family. He also has parents who support him tremendously throughout the years, but also pushed him.
”I got more into baseball after my sister’s success and my dad kept pushing me, always trying to help me improve,” J.P. has also been able to grow up and play baseball year round.
J.P. is a distant cousin of big leaguer Carl Crawford.
J.P.'s father, Larry, played football at Iowa State and with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League.
J.P. played for legendary Lakewood High School in California, which has produced talents such as Travis D’Arnaud and Shane Watson (drafted by the Phillies in 2012), the latter whom Crawford grew up with.
"Shane Watson is like my brother. We played tee-ball together and have been playing ever since then," Crawford said.
In 2013, his senior year in high school, Crawford committed to Southern Cal.
In 2013, the Phillies chose Crawford with their #1 pick in the draft (16th overall), out of high school.
When the MLB Network interviewed J.P. right after the Phillies selected him, he said that he hopes to learn as much as he possibly can from Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, then one day take his job. Then, Crawford broke out an ear-to-ear grin.
"It means a lot, especially coming from Jimmy Rollins down to me," Crawford said on MLB Network, asked about the Phillies drafting him. "Hopefully I can learn something from him and take his place."
In 2013, J.P. led the Gulf Coast League in both batting (.345) and on-base percentage (.443), while ranking fifth in slugging (.465)
In 2014, Crawford won the 2014 Paul Owens Award as the best player in Philadelphia's farm system.
In 2014, Baseball America rated Crawford as the 3rd-best prospect in the Phillies organization. They had him as the #1 prospect in the Phillies farm system for four years in a row—2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
In 2015, the Phillies chose Crawford to play in the Futures Game.
- The only boy in the house who would watch baseball games on TV for hours on end. But at the same time, he could hardly stand still.
"He was always pitching into the sofa or shooting hoops," Beth Crawford said.
The middle child and only son of Beth, a former college volleyball player, and Larry Crawford, a former Canadian Football League All-Star, John Paul Crawford, more widely known as "J.P.", was in love with baseball at first sight.
When the family once made the short drive to the old batting cages by Long Beach Airport, so his older sister, Eliza, could get some practice swings in, they couldn't keep 3-year-old J.P. out of the cage. Even though the bats were bigger than the kid who didn't meet the age requirement, the employees couldn't say no to the boy who began connecting with almost every one of the machine's pitches.
Around that same time, Eliza, a future infielder at Cal State-Fullerton, began playing on her first youth league team. (Eliza is now (2022) the softball coordinator for the Urban Youth Academy.)
"He was too young to play, like two or three years old, he would just cry and cry and say, 'I'm never going to be old enough to be on a team,'" Beth Crawford said. "He was just so ready to play."
Perhaps as important as any of Crawford's tools as a budding professional athlete is his confidence. The Southern California kid can come off sounding brash when you get him talking about personal and team goals. Almost Jimmy Rollins-like.
"You have to (in order) to succeed in this game," Crawford said. "People always call me cocky, but I just call myself confident. You have to believe in yourself, you have to know you're going to do something. That's a big part of it—you have to know that you're going to do something well. Then you have to do it right."
It also helps to have the talent to walk the walk.
On July 11, 2005 at Comerica Park in Detroit, a day before the All-Star Game, a 10-year-old Crawford advanced to the finals in his age group of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run National Finals competition. A product of MLB's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., Crawford wasn't an unknown freshman when he arrived at Lakewood High School in the fall of 2009.
"The other coaches saw him more than I did in the Pony League," Lakewood head coach Spud O'Neil said. "I didn't know how special he was until the first day, and he was special."
Crawford became the first freshman not only to make Lakewood High School's varsity team from the outset of the season, but as a starter, too. The 15-year-old Crawford was so strong defensively at shortstop that O'Neil moved three-year starter Jeff Yamaguchi, the league's MVP who would go on to play at Long Beach State, over to first base to accommodate his freshman phenom.
"Let's put it this way, he was 6-2 and skinny as a rail, but, God, he could play," said O'Neil, Lakewood's coach since 1984. "He was a very, very good defensive player. And that's what we always talk about here: defense first. We had him eighth and ninth (in the lineup) and then real soon he was the leadoff guy. He was just so fast and athletic."
Crawford hit .404 as a freshman, fourth highest on his team. He'd hit over .450 in both his junior and senior seasons, leading his team. Outside of high school games, Crawford was also selected to play for the Urban Youth Academy's Team USA, and in a Labor Day tournament against Japan at the beginning of his sophomore year, he led that team in hitting, too.
"He was a great ballplayer—the best we've ever had," O'Neil said.
Some of Lakewood's alums include Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants, catcher and former Phillies draft pick Travis d'Arnaud, and former Major Leaguers Mike Carp, Chris Gomez, Damion Easley, and Craig Grebeck.
"That's a good compliment," said Utley, who played in the same league while at Polytechnic High in Long Beach in the 1990s. "For that area, in Southern California, where guys play all year around."
Having coached in Southern California for more than three decades, coach O'Neil has been used to seeing scouts take over the seating and standing area behind the Lancers batting cage for games. He'll also see them sitting in their cars along Lomina Avenue beyond the leftfield fence.
"Just watching us practice," O'Neil said. "They're watching how they act on the field. Are they goofing around? We encourage them to have fun, but some guys are just donkeys. And we've had some donkeys. And some that were pretty good."
J.P. Crawford does not fall into the donkey category. While some kids are glued to their cellphone screens, for Crawford "it was all baseball."
"His family did a good job with him," O'Neil said.
Just by scanning the future Phillies shortstop's Twitter feed, you can see how much family means to Crawford. His parents make cross-country trips to watch him play a few times a year, his longtime girlfriend is always by his side, his sisters inspire him to reach his goals. He even has a trio of Siberian huskies who he treats like kids, or, at the very least, his own personal wolf pack.
You can sense the strong family unit inside their Lakewood home. And all you have to do is glance at the basketball goal in the driveway to get a sense of where sports fits in to the Crawford family dynamic. "We used to have a lot of battles," J.P. Crawford said. "My mom, she's out there to kill you. And I'd destroy (my dad) now, but back in the day he'd beat me good."
"Senior year," the elder Crawford said of when he couldn't take down his son in a one-on-one game anymore. "It was tough to give in." The most competitive member of the family?
"My mom, definitely her," J.P. Crawford said. "She goes all out to do anything." (Ryan Lawrence / Daily News Staff Writer - 8/18/15)
Back in 2000, the Phillies brought a 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins to camp. Incumbent shortstop Desi Relaford looked across the clubhouse at Rollins and said he needed to pick it up because “that cat can play.” Rollins reached the Majors that September, starting a 14-year run at shortstop.
Crawford played the 2016 season at age 21.
After the Phillies improved their stock of prospects through trades, the last thing they want to do is rush a player.
“We’re in a position to make sure players get the at-bats or innings we think they need before we move them,” farm director Joe Jordan said. “We hopefully have the volume of players and prospects that we can put them on a schedule, and if they change that schedule, that’s good.”
MLB debut (Sept. 5, 2017): "It was a dream come true," J.P. said following a 9-1 victory over the Mets, which included his first hit—a bloop single to center field in the fifth inning. "Stepping onto the field, looking around, I thought to myself, 'Man, I'm really here.' I've been working on it for so long. Just to finally live the dream."
“That’s something people have been calling me my whole life when I started playing travel ball, and it’s stuck with me,” said the Mariners' shortstop. “Nothing crazy.”
Oct 2019: While many of the Mariners' top prospects are still waiting in the wings, J.P. Crawford made his arrival in May, and the club now has a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of its shortstop of the future.
Crawford’s first season with Seattle proved to be a positive, as he immediately solidified a shaky infield defense and displayed a potent bat with a torrid June, but also left plenty of room for improvement as he struggled at the plate in the second half and was sent home for the offseason with instructions to get physically stronger and better prepared to withstand the rigors of a 162-game season.
At 24, Crawford fits nicely into the Mariners’ plans of molding a contending team around its young nucleus. He was a top prospect coming up in the Phillies’ system, a 2013 first-round pick whose star faded a bit when he was thrust into Philadelphia’s Opening Day lineup at shortstop in 2018. He wound up battling through an injury-plagued season before being traded to Seattle in the Jean Segura deal.
The Mariners felt they bought low on Crawford and foresee a bright future for the 6-foot-2, 199-pounder, who has four more years of team control before hitting free agency.
“I definitely learned a lot,” Crawford said as he wrapped up his first year in Seattle. “Finally getting a chance to play every day at the Major League level, I got my feet wet a little and got comfortable out there. I feel like I belong and still have a lot to prove. I still have to go out and work hard every day and prove I can be out there every day. But I think overall, this year went really well.”
What went wrong?
Crawford came out swinging when he was promoted to the Mariners in mid-May, posting a .310/.380/.500 line with three homers and 22 RBIs in his first 33 games, even while missing two weeks with a sprained left ankle.
But as the season wore on, the youngster wore down at the plate and he hit just .178/.275/.297 with four homers and 24 RBIs over his final 60 games.
“Though J.P. has had the opportunity to play in the big leagues before, he's never really played a six-month season,” said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. “Playing every day at this level can really wear you down. We saw that with [Daniel Vogelbach] as well. It's their first chance of doing this and it’s a huge experience. It's very valuable for them. They'll go home in the offseason and my guess is they’ll be better for it.
Crawford supplied walk-off hits to beat the Tigers on July 28 and the A’s on Sept. 27, and he also notched a career-best four hits, including a home run, and four RBIs in a June 23 win over the Orioles. But the one unforgettable moment for the youngster?
That would have to be the spectacular defensive play he made for the final out in the top of the ninth inning against the Tigers on July 26, with a diving stop and twisting, off-balance throw to nail Jeimer Cadelario and set up a walk-off, 3-2 win in the bottom of the frame.
“Mercy,” said Hill, 67. “That was one of the best plays I’ve seen, and I’ve been around awhile.”
The Mariners opened this past season with veteran Tim Beckham at shortstop for the first six weeks, but it’ll be Crawford’s job from Day 1 next spring. He’ll anchor an infield that could also include youngster Shed Long at second base as the club continues shifting into its youth movement.
Crawford will soon turn 25, but the Mariners like his on-field leadership and feel he’s primed to be part of their core group going forward. They’d love to see him take the next step offensively as his speed and power combination are intriguing, but defense figures to remain the top priority.
“I'm thrilled with where J.P. is at and I think he's going to be a staple here,” Dipoto said. “He's our shortstop moving ahead, and we love the development he made, especially on the defensive side. He took huge strides.” (G Johns - MLB.com - Oct 17, 2019)
Feb 18, 2020: While J.P. Crawford showed considerable defensive improvement last year and established himself as the Mariners’ shortstop of the future, the 25-year-old wore down physically over the course of the season and was told he needed to get stronger. So Crawford made that his mission, bought a house near the Mariners’ training facility in Peoria and spent the winter working out with strength and conditioning coach James Clifton.
“I put on 10 pounds,” Crawford said after the club’s first full-squad workout. “Me and Cliffy have been going at it the whole offseason. He pushed me hard, but I needed it. I feel the difference on the field already. Balls are coming off my bat a lot harder now and throwing is a lot easier, too.”
The Mariners acquired Crawford a year ago in the deal that sent Jean Segura to the Phillies. After being promoted from Triple-A Tacoma in May, he broke out with a vengeance in June, posting a .338/.413/.569 line with 17 RBIs and a pair of homers in 16 games. But Crawford batted just .178 in 60 games over the final three months and missed time with a strained right hamstring, leading the Mariners to advise him of the need to beef up and better prepare for the rigors of a full season in the Majors.
“I’ve known I needed to get stronger, it’s just a matter of staying consistent with it over the offseason and not slacking off,” he said. “This is the first year I lifted all offseason and I feel great. I can’t wait to start playing.”
The Mariners have high expectations for Crawford. Manager Scott Servais says he just needs to continue growing and learning.
“I think the sky is the limit for J.P., I really do,” Servais said. “Why can’t he win a Gold Glove? Why can’t he play in an All-Star Game? He has that type of ability. Along the way you have to keep making adjustments, listen to the people around you, trust the people around you.
"I do think the sky is the limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be. There’s a lot of work and effort that needs to be put into it. And he’s not the only one. There’s more than a few guys in that clubhouse that I can say the same thing about.” (G Johns - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2020)
September 11-16, 2020: J.P. was on bereavement leave.
June 2013: The Phillies chose Crawford in the first round, out of Lakewood High School in Lakewood, CA. He signed for $2,299,300 with scout Demerius Pittman.
Dec 3, 2018: The Mariners traded SS Jean Segura, RHP Juan Nicasio and LHP James Pazos to the Phillies for 1B Carlos Santana and SS J.P. Crawford.
- Jan 15, 2021: Crawford and the Mariners avoided arbitration, by agreeing to a one-year deal for $2 million.
|Birth City:||Long Beach, CA|
|Draft:||Phillies #1 - 2013 - Out of high school (CA)|
Crawford is an impact player. He hits the ball from gap-to-gap with a loose, fluid and compact lefthanded swing with good bat speed. He should hit for a high average, and some power. He gets a present 60 for his hitting grade and is developing 45 power, which projects to 10-15 homers per season down the road.
"I think his bat will be his best tool—both power and average,” Clearwater manager Nelson Prada said. “The way he approaches his job at the plate is really impressive.”
When J.P. stays back and uses leverage, he has some loft and projects to hit some home runs, improving his power numbers every year. (Spring, 2017)
J.P. has a great eye at the plate, getting on base a lot. He's a disciplined, selective lefthanded hitter. He has plus-plus plate discipline and good hand-eye coordination. He recognizes off-speed pitches. He has a good feel for the game. He walks as much, or even more than he strikes out. And that impressive patience is special.
It was his patience at the plate that got him drafted. He's had that since his amateur years. And now, he recognizes off-speed pitches, rarely expanding the strike zone.
"Having the pressure on the pitcher and not on yourself is a big key," said Crawford. "Being able to see the ball and be comfortable hitting with two strikes. A lot of people start pressing when they get to two strikes, but I feel comfortable hitting with two strikes. That's a big key too."
Crawford is no finished product. He has some hitting mechanics to smooth out, with a pull-oriented setup that more experienced pitchers can exploit.
He sets up with his hands high, and with long arms he has a bit of a loop in his swing, but he sprays line drives across the field and works the count to get on base. He’s mostly a doubles threat right now, but once he gets stronger he has the frame to grow into at least fringe-average power.
Crawford's lefthanded stroke can get to big and he can become pull-happy. (Spring, 2015)
J.P. walks about the same amount of time as he strikes out! He has an advanced two-strike approach. He is so patient and knows his strike zone so well.
Evaluators notice that he does a superb job staying inside the ball with his compact lefty swing.
J.P. has above-average contact skills, especially when he keeps his hands inside the ball.
“J.P. controls the strike zone well, particularly for someone who has typically been one of the youngest players in his league,” Phillies GM Matt Klentak said in 2016. “His entire performance has gotten more consistent.”
He has slowed his hands when fielding and transferring the ball, and that has made him more consistent. In spring training, Crawford worked on that fundamental with bench coach Larry Bowa.
"He's a big-time player,” Bowa said. “He’s got some swagger, but not in a bad way.”
2016 Season: Crawford’s hitting mechanics got a little out of whack in 2016, as some scouts believed a thumb injury from last fall carried over into 2016. His swing got loopier and he wasn’t using his top hand enough.
His power potential may never live up to the expectations thrown on him coming out of high school as he does have an opposite-field first approach, but he was a 21-year-old in Triple-A, so he’s still ahead of schedule developmentally. J.P. draws plenty of walks and doesn’t strike out, thanks to an excellent understanding of the strike zone. That gives him a solid base to build on offensively.
2017: J.P. got into a bad habit of pulling off the ball, causing his hips to fly open.
That created a longer swing path, left him vulnerable to pitches on the outer third and cut into his ability to drive the ball. Crawford adjusted in the second half by setting up his hands closer to his body and keeping his lower half into his swing better.
The changes improved his swing efficiency and helped him stay through the ball better. Crawford’s offensive game is still centered around hitting line drives, but he showed the potential for 15-plus home runs. (Matt Eddy - BA Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2018)
- July 25, 2020: Crawford tripled twice in his 3-for-4 effort in a 7-2 loss, becoming the 15th player in Mariners history with two triples in one game and the first since Kyle Seager on June 2, 2014.
Crawford now has 10 triples in his first 168 career games. (Greg Johns - mlb.com)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, J.P.'s career Major League stats were: .231 batting average, 12 home runs and 170 hits with 88 RBI in 736 at-bats.
J.P. has plenty of range and arm strength and range, especially to his left, to stay at shortstop. He also does a real good job of charging the ball. He gets a very impressive 60 grade for his fielding and has a 60 arm.
"Crawford makes the game look easy both ways," one scout said "He has a great contact approach with coming power. And he's very relaxed and poised on defense. All the tools are there."
Crawford is a quick-twitch athlete. He moves around smoothly and effortlessly with good feet and quick hands. He's got an excellent first step quickness and above-average instincts for the game. He reads the ball off the bat very well.
He doesn’t have blazing speed, but in the field, his combination of body control, athleticism, smooth actions and solid instincts makes him a smooth-fielding plus defender. (April, 2017)
J.P. has a loose, free arm and makes strong throws. We think he has a 60 arm along with 60 fielding ability. He is above-average defensively, earning a present 60 and future 65 grade—very impressive. His arm plays even better than above-average because his throws are so accurate; so some scouts give his arm a 65 or even a 70 for that combo of strength and controlled accuracy.
He also has quick hands on the exchange.
In 2014, Crawford would rush at times defensively, trying to make too many plays that can't be made. Time and experience should mature J.P., who has average-to-plus tools all across the board.
Crawford has a knack for the game. He has solid baseball instincts and an impressive internal clock.
An excellent athlete, J.P. projects as a quality shortstop across the board, though he still has improvements to make on defense, as evidenced by 29 errors and .948 fielding percentage during the 2014 season.
But improve he did, honing his backhand skills in 2015. While he did make 21 errors, with a .954 fielding percentage, J.P. made most of those errors from being too quick on the transfer of ball to the throwing hand. And that is an easy fix.
Crawford is endeavoring to bring the impressively patient approach he has at the plate, to the field with him. He has a penchant for making the impossible look routine at times, it's often the routine that trips him up. So he has to learn to respect every ground ball. He is slowing things down to make the proper adjustments.
"Emmanuel Burris, Freddy Galvis and Andres Blanco, they've helped me out tremendously," said Crawford. "It's helped me slow things down, making sure my feet are under me when I take ground balls, not trying to rush things." (Craig Forde - MiLB.com - 5/10/2016)
Late in the 2016 season, scouts noticed mechanical adjustments he needs to make. In particular, Crawford has a tendency to open his hips early, step in the bucket, and pull off the ball. If he can make the necessary fixes, he can be an above-average hitter with near-average power and average speed. (Spring, 2017)
J.P. is a true shortstop with good athleticism and range, quick hands, a smooth transfer and an accurate, above-average arm. He shifted to third base in August 2017 to get accustomed to the position with Freddy Galvis at shortstop in Philadelphia.
2017: Crawford was named the best defensive shortstop in Minor League Baseball by MLB Pipeline.
2019 Improvements: Crawford hooked up with veteran infield coach Perry Hill even before Spring Training started and latched onto Hill’s energetic approach and focus on footwork fundamentals, which proved to be huge in helping him iron out the throwing errors that plagued his brief tenure with the Phillies.
While Crawford’s offense slumped in the second half, his glovework reassured the Mariners that they’re on the right track.
“I go out there with confidence, knowing I can make any play,” Crawford said. “Just making the routine plays, now it’s night and day for me thanks to Perry. Going out there feeling comfortable, that’s what transforms you into a good player. I knew I had a lot of work to do last offseason, with my footwork and just getting my body lined up to the bases and all that good stuff. Thankfully we got Perry and thankfully I met him. He changed my career.” (Greg Johns - MLB.com - Oct. 17, 2019)
In 2018, Crawford had made eight throwing errors in limited playing time with the Phillies, but he worked hard on his footwork under the tutelage of veteran infield coach Perry Hill last season and was better able to unleash his arm strength in accurate fashion. The Mariners are also impressed with the throwing arm of rookie first baseman Evan White, but Crawford plays a position where that strength is more evident and gets the nod for now. (G Johns - mlb.com - 5/29/2020)
- The Mariners knew J.P. possessed a good arm when they acquired him from the Phillies in December 2018. But just how strong was confirmed when the young shortstop pulled off one of the finest defensive plays in MLB in 2019. In a July 26 game at T-Mobile Park, he made a diving stop and a tremendous off-balance throw to nail the Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario on a ground ball deep in the hole. (G Johns - mlb.com - 5/29/2020)
2020 Season: The 25-year-old finished the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season leading all AL shortstops with 62 out-of-zone plays.
His 4.9 defensive runs above average ranked second, behind Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (8.4), and his six defensive runs saved also ranked second, trailing only Correa (eight). His 2.5 UZR also ranked second, behind Lindor (5.8). He was nominated for a Gold Glove award. (L Smith - October 22, 2020)
November 2020: Two Mariners, Evan White and J.P. Crawford, won Gold Gloves.
The two young infielders each received their first Rawlings Gold Glove honors, the most in one year for the Mariners since outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez both took home the awards in 2010.
White, a 24-year-old rookie, unseated two-time winner Matt Olson of the Athletics. Crawford, a 25-year-old in his first full season as a starter, topped Francisco Lindor of the Indians and Andrelton Simmons of the Angels, had won the last four AL Gold Gloves at that position. (G Johns - MLB.com - Nov 3, 2020)
2020 Season: “I made all the routine plays. Making the cool plays is awesome. The ones that tear me down are routine errors. Everyone remembers you for cool plays … but this year I finally made the routine plays and it paid off.”
Crawford went from -5 Runs Saved at shortstop in 2019 to 7 Runs Saved in 2020.
And Crawford wasn’t kidding about the routine plays. In 2019, he averaged a Defensive Misplay and Error every 27 innings. In 2020, he averaged one every 57 innings. (Mark Simon - Dec. 30, 2020)
J.P. has decent speed that shows up both in the field and on the bases.
Crawford is an intelligent baserunner. He is not that fast, rating an average 50 grade.
J.P. is below-average out of the box, but uses long strides to tick it up to average once under way. Multiple evaluators have noted that Crawford is a duck-footed, heel-toe style runner, which could partly contribute to his slow times to first base.
- In 2014, he was aggressive, if not efficient, in stealing 24 bases in 38 attempts.
April 4-May 6, 2015: Crawford began the season on the D.L. with an oblique strain.
November 2015: J.P. tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. It was in a splint for about a month. Crawford injured it on a tag play.
Chase Utley and Cesar Hernandez both suffered similar injuries at the big league level in recent seasons and required surgery. Crawford’s injury is not nearly as serious, and surgery was not required.
“It’s a very slight tear, so slight they had to read the MRI three times to find it,” Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He will be immobilized for three to four weeks and 100 percent healthy well before spring training 2016.”
Sept 14, 2016: Crawford underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove a "loose body." The team said Crawford will rest for the next four weeks but will otherwise have a normal offseason. He is expected to be ready to play by Spring Training. (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Sept 16, 2016)
June 11-20, 2017: Crawford took nine days off to rest a nagging groin strain and take a mental break, and when he returned he looked like a different player. Crawford finished the season on a tear, batting .280/.381/.522 with 13 home runs in his final 71 games.
April 29-June 6, 2018: JP was on the DL with right forearm strain.
June 20-Aug 10, 2018: JP was on the DL with broken left hand.
May 29-June 14, 2019: Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford went on the IL after he rolled his left ankle trying to avoid the tag in a rundown in a game against the Rangers.
“That was a gut punch to everybody,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “J.P. is playing great. So it's very disappointing.”