Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants, SS, 29
Extension Details: Six years (’16-’21), $75 million
Career Statistics (5 seasons): 2,371 PA, .246/.313/.383, 108 2B, 22 3B, 47 HR, 2.40 K/BB, 97 OPS+, .302 wOBA, 96 wRC+, .259 TAv, 45 DRS, 6.7 UZR/150, 12.4 fWAR
2015 Statistics: 561 PA, .256/.321/.462, 33 2B, 4 3B, 21 HR, 3.05 K/BB, 114 OPS+, .332 wOBA, 117 wRC+, .291 TAv, 20 DRS, 11.9 UZR/150, 4.7 fWAR
Always known and applauded for his excellent work in the field, Brandon Crawford has worked to increase his offensive potency every year since he became a regular starter at shortstop for the Giants. The 29-year-old from Mountain View, California has seen his oWAR jump each of the last three seasons, posting marks of 1.0, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.4 each year since his first full season in 2012.
2015 was a banner year for Crawford, as he posted career-best marks in nearly every offensive category and led the majors in wRC+ and fWAR among qualified shortstops, and finished second in offensive runs above average among those players, behind only Xander Bogaerts. In the field, he was also at his best by all defensive metrics, finishing tied for second among qualified shortstops in defensive runs saved and fourth in UZR/150. Due to his outstanding season, the Giants have graced him with a sizable new contract which will have him in San Francisco through his age-34 season. In what would be his final two arbitration-eligible years, Crawford will earn $6.0 and $8.2 million, then his salary will jump to $15.2 for the next four years afterwards.
The Giants are banking on Crawford maintaining his offensive production from 2015, if not improving at least his on-base numbers further, which is certainly a realistic thought. When players have breakout years like Crawford. there is usually some element of luck or chance that is identifiable in the player’s peripheral statistics. In this case, Crawford didn’t have any outstanding BABIP luck (in fact, his .294 BABIP was just the third-best of his career and below league average), and he continued to strike out and walk at a rate quite similar to his career marks. When looking at the batted ball data, Crawford’s HR/FB was quite high, but that could be attributed to him hitting the ball harder than ever, posting a 32.9 percent hard-hit rate according to FanGraphs, up from 28.6 percent in 2014 and 25.1 percent in 2013.
What the Giants may need to worry more about is how Crawford’s defense holds up as he ages, as he will be paid the most after he hits age 30, when some middle infielders start to show decline in range and quickness. However, should Crawford be able to maintain his defense to some degree and maintain his increased offensive ability, $15 million may not be a high price to pay for an above-average player at premium position, especially when guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper could quite possibly be making upwards of $40 million dollars by the time Crawford’s deal runs out.