After a rough 2019 season, San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford has something to prove heading into the new season. Can he hold onto his starting job?
Last season, he had arguably his worst year as a pro since his rookie year in 2011, hitting .228/.304/.350 for a 75 OPS+ with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 560 plate appearances.
With the emergence of younger players like Mauricio Dubon, as well as the additions of Wilmer Flores, Yolmer Sanchez, and of course the big surprise from 2019 Donovan Solano, the Giants have a lot of options for who to play up the middle.
Joe Panik, Crawford's longtime partner up the middle, is not the second baseman heading into a Giants season for the first time since 2015, and while Crawford will surely be the starting shortstop to begin the year, it's not out of the question to think he could find himself in a bench role by season's end.
For now, that is still a long way off, but if Crawford continues to decline it could be in the cards.
Can he rebound?
The 33-year-old is projected to hit .242/.310/.391 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI by Baseball Reference, and I think those numbers are pretty fair.
A mini-rebound year like that could easily be accomplished. He has never been one to hit for a high average, hanging in the .240-.250 range for most of his career. But if he gets on base at a slightly higher clip, it would go a long way toward helping the team.
Meanwhile, Crawford has remained fairly reliable as a defender. He may not add a fourth Gold Glove to his collection, but he is still a solid option capable of making highlight-reel plays.
Crawford is still a good player, and even though the Giants don't really have a choice, he will be a big part of the Giants until his contract expires after the 2021 season. He may not be an All-Star or Gold Glove-caliber defender anymore, but if he is able to hit a little better it would make us all breathe a little easier these next two years.