San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford Is MLB's Most Underrated Shortstop

By John Shea

Erratic-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford will never develop into a dependable bat, but will supply the San Francisco Giants with occasional pop against right-handed pitchers and superb infield defense. This had become the consensus on the type of big league player Crawford would be throughout his career after finishing his second season with a .248 BA, the same as the one from his rookie year.

The knock on Crawford was that he couldn’t hit left-handed pitchers, a feat that’s inherently difficult for left-handed hitters. Crawford has virtually spit in the faces of doubters in MLB action this season, compiling a.438 average with two home runs and eight RBIs in 32 official at-bats against LHP. His torrid start against southpaws is ironic, considering he’s registered a microscopic .271 SLG against RHP in 59 at-bats.

Crawford is perhaps the most underrated shortstop in all of baseball. His run-producing numbers will never compare to the likes of division rival and fellow Bay Area native Troy Tulowitzki, but he’s a viable big league shortstop who seldom gets the type of attention he deserves, especially on defense. Crawford is arguably the best fielding shortstop in MLB, demonstrating outstanding range and frequently snagging should-be base hits on the infield dirt before pivoting to throw darts toward first base for outs.

The 27-year-old shortstop owns a .834 OPS in 29 games of action this season. That figure is 160 points above his final mark in the 2013 season (.674). Crawford’s production at the plate during the second half of 2013 was negatively affected by a hand injury which prevented him from feeling comfortable at the plate. He never made excuses for his struggles, though.

At the moment, Crawford owns the fourth-highest OPS among all MLB shortstops. He ranks second in the NL behind just Tulowitzki in that category. After blasting two home runs to aid the Giants in a road sweep of the Atlanta Braves, Crawford now owns a 0.7 WAR to rank among the top 10 shortstops in baseball.

Despite being subject to criticism, Crawford is emerging as a high-quality big league shortstop. He will never develop into a prolific power hitter, but his steady development is worth applauding.

The Giants would be hard-pressed to replace a player like Crawford who not only helps generate runs at the plate, but also shaves points off the ERA of the pitching staff with his glove. He’s one of the most undervalued players in the game, but will eventually earn the type of recognition he deserves if able to continue wreaking havoc on left-handed pitchers while also recording web gems.

John Shea is an MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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