Crawford, Frazier have built-in chemistry

2 years ago

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If it looks like there’s already chemistry between J.P. Crawford and Adam Frazier, it’s because this isn’t their first rodeo manning a middle infield together.

The scene was the 2015 Arizona Fall League, where Crawford, then just 20 years old in the Phillies’ organization, and Frazier, age 23 in the Pirates’ system, teamed up for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Both played shortstop, the position they were brought up playing and where Crawford has remained. Frazier, who also came up in left field, didn’t shift primarily to second base until 2018, well after he’d reached the Majors.

That powwow nearly seven years ago — when they were still far from the big leagues — was short-lived but long-lasting for the admiration it built between the two. So when Crawford learned that the Mariners had traded for Frazier in November, he was stoked to reunite with his former teammate.

“I just thought it would be cool to play with him up the middle in the big leagues one day, and here we are,” Crawford said. “So it’s kind of a small world. I was hyped. The guy is a competitor. He’s a gamer.”

The feeling was mutual. Frazier was an above-average defender for the Pirates, worth nine outs above average during his time there, but as a team, Pittsburgh’s infield ranked 22nd, at -29. His new double-play partner is a Gold Glove winner, plays every day when healthy and has zero tolerance for sloppy defense.

“His attention to detail — he stays on top of it and makes sure you are paying attention to detail so you’re getting better every day instead of just going through the motions,” Frazier said of Crawford. “That’s his thing.”

Through the weekend, they’ve turned nine double plays and have looked smooth doing it.

“The feeds that J.P. is giving [Frazier] at the back of the bag, they’re up in the right spot, so it’s easy to turn a double play,” manager Scott Servais said. “And Adam has got plenty of arm strength to complete those plays, but it’s all in the feed.

“You start putting that feed in different parts of his body, and all of a sudden, now he’s off balance and it doesn’t work. That’s why you practice over and over and over again, and the casual fan just says, ‘It’s a double-play ball, it should be turned.’ But there’s a lot that goes into it. Our guys do a really good job at it.”

The Mariners haven’t had a true second baseman to pair with Crawford since Dee Strange-Gordon left after 2019, and Frazier is only under contract for ’22. But the Mariners’ front office loves Frazier’s offensive approach, he’s been an on-base machine batting leadoff and he can play left field. Add those up and he might be a strong candidate for an extension much like Crawford, who on Opening Day signed a five-year deal.