Crawford hones swing in AFL stint
Success against lefties key to avoiding shortstop platoon
SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford lets the speculation bypass him like a pitch in the dirt.Maybe the Giants are prepared to commit to making Crawford their everyday shortstop for 2012. Or they might prefer an offensively robust veteran to occupy the position. Perhaps Crawford could start but would thrive more with an experienced backup to complement him. The array of possibilities doesn't faze Crawford, who'll turn 25 on Jan. 21. "I see it and I hear about it," Crawford said recently. "I'm on Twitter, so I see some of that stuff that comes up. I don't really pay attention to it. ... I just do what I have to do and that's all I can really control." Crawford's stint with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League apparently helped his chances of securing a regular's spot. He finished league play on Wednesday with a .276 batting average and was at .307 until he went 1-for-12 in the final four games. Having established himself as a superior defender while hitting only .204 in 66 games as a rookie with the Giants last season, Crawford could guarantee himself considerable playing time just by hitting adequately. "I got a decent amount of at-bats and I stayed pretty consistent," Crawford said. "That's what I wanted to accomplish and I think and hope that's what the Giants wanted me to accomplish." As the manager for the Giants' Triple-A Fresno affiliate, Steve Decker isn't among the organization's top decision makers. But he felt suitably impressed after watching Crawford play a handful of AFL games. "He was progressing nicely toward what we need him to do to be an effective Major League hitter -- covering the fastball and hitting strikes," Decker said. "... His bat speed looked as good as I've ever seen it." The left-handed-batting Crawford still has room for improvement. He hit .344 (21-for-61) against right-handed pitchers and .130 (3-for-23) off left-handers, potentially fueling even more speculation that he'll require a right-handed-batting platoon partner. "One of the main things for him is to slow down his feet and have the correct angle to the hitting zone so that he doesn't miss his pitch," Decker said. Crawford is aware he'll face tougher competition next April if he wins the shortstop's job. "It's not big league pitching, but I think there are guys who have big league stuff," he said, evaluating the AFL's hurlers overall. When Crawford last faced legitimate Major League pitching, he hit .313 (10-for-32) in his final 12 regular-season games to lift his average by 21 points. Thus, Crawford said that when the AFL began, he "just tried to keep the same approach and the same swing that I had the last couple of weeks of the season." Plucked from UCLA as San Francisco's fourth-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Crawford has no inkling how Giants management perceives him. "They hide their cards pretty well," he said. Most likely, the Giants don't consider him a joker.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.