Crawford went 3-for-6 with a run while starting both games of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Orioles. The previously struggling shortstop continued his ascension at the plate with Tuesday's solid day. Crawford had gotten his average up over the Mendoza Line for the first time this season with his first multi-hit effort of the season Sunday, and although all three hits Tuesday were singles and he remains in search of his first extra-base hit of the campaign, his average is now up to a respectable .256.
Crawford went 2-for-4 in Sunday's win over the Twins. The struggling shortstop's first multi-hit effort of the season pushed his average over the Mendoza Line for the first time as well. Crawford has actually reached safely in seven of his first nine games, but he's yet to notch an extra-base hit and has generated an anemic 14.3 percent hard-hit rate through 34 plate appearances.
Crawford, who went 1-for-4 in a loss to the Giants on Monday, is hitting .154 (2-for-13) over his first four games. The 26-year-old also has a walk and a run, but overall, his start to the 2021 campaign largely mirrors his forgettable Cactus League slate. Crawford hit just .128 (5-for-39) with no extra-base hits and three RBI across 52 plate appearances this spring, and although there'd been talk of the shortstop still seeing some leadoff duty this season, he's operated out of the No. 9 hole in his first three games while Mitch Haniger has thrived at the top of the order.
Crawford will start at shortstop and bat ninth Thursday against the Giants. Seattle is opposing the right-handed Kevin Gausman in the season opener, so the lefty-hitting Crawford looks like he'll be a mainstay at the bottom of the order to begin the campaign while Mitch Haniger serves as the full-time leadoff man. This arrangement is obviously an unfavorable development for Crawford's fantasy value -- and an unexpected one, considering that he'd hit atop the order in 48 of his 51 starts in 2020. Though he showed significant improvement with his contact rate last season, Crawford's .336 on-base percentage was still poor for a leadoff hitter, and he didn't make enough strides this spring to hold off a healthy Haniger for the job. He produced only five hits -- all singles -- in 39 at-bats during Cactus League play.
Crawford, who hit leadoff in 48 of 53 games last season, is likely to share the role more often this season with Mitch Haniger, Daniel Kramer of MLB.com reports. "We'll continue to play with that. It won't be just locked in," manager Scott Servais said. "Last year, we had J.P. at the top, just because I thought we didn't have a ton of options. So, we'll continue to be flexible and move it around there." The 26-year-old has gotten off to a modest start in Cactus League play -- he's hitting just .200 (2-for-10) with five walks, a stolen base and a run across his first six games -- but he reported to spring camp with about 10 pounds of additional muscle and hit a career-best .255 last season over 232 plate appearances while striking out at a career-low 16.8 percent clip. However, Haniger is now back and healthy after missing almost two full seasons. The veteran outfielder slashed .330/.388/.580 across 45 games at the top of the order in 2018 and profiles as a highly viable opposite-handed alternative to the lefty-hitting Crawford in the leadoff spot.
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