Next up in our Due Diligence interview series we spoke with up and coming star shortstop, Brandon Crawford.
Brandon has been making a lot of noise in his first full season of professional ball. From his insane start in San Jose, to leading the Giants in the Arizona Fall League, he has proven that he is a competitor and has a bright future with the club.
AZG: Brandon, thank you for taking the time to reach out to the fans and give some insight to baseball. First off, you were a local kid growing up in the Bay Area, playing ball at Foothill, and were ranked one of the Northern California prospects in high school. Were the Giants the team you grew up rooting for and wanted to eventually play for?
Crawford - No problem Joe. Yes, the Giants have always been my favorite team. My dad had tickets to Giants games at Candlestick since before I was born, so I don’t think I ever had a choice. (Laughs)
AZG: I know it was just Fall League, but is there a special feeling of accomplishment by getting a jersey with “San Francisco” across the chest and the name “Crawford” on the back?
Crawford - When I was a little kid, I always dreamed of playing in a Giants uniform. So it was pretty cool being able to put on the big league uni everyday. I was fortunate enough to make it up to a few big league Spring Training games, but it’s not quite the same when you’re number 97 with no name.
AZG: Speaking of the Giants, you have been recently ranked as the #9 prospect in the system by Baseball America, which is a great accomplishment. That said, in my book (and most people’s books) you are at the top of the depth chart at shortstop. Are players aware of who is “ahead” of them in the organization, and when spots are scheduled to open up (contracts, etc.)?
Crawford - Thank you. As a player, you can’t really look to hard into it. There are always going to be free agent signings and injuries that could alter how fast you will move up. There are too many variables to know exactly where you, or the person ahead/behind you will be next season.
AZG: Let’s jump back to the beginning of the year in San Jose. The team that started 2009 was unreal. It was basically an All Star team and was truly like watching the “Little Giants” as most of you are on the path to drive up the Peninsula, three of which have already made their debuts. You were only with the team for 25 games but your line was insane (.371, 2 2B, 2 3B, 6HR, 17RBI). Could you speak a little bit about what it was like to play on that team and how you all achieved the massive success in the first half?
Crawford - It was a very cool experience. That team was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever played on and I made a lot of good friends playing in San Jose. I had played with Roger (Kieschnick) on the 2006 college national team, and Buster (Posey) and Conor (Gillaspie) briefly last year so it was fun to play with them again.
I think I can attribute part of my success to our lineup being so good that it was easier to blend in. I had to get good pitches because I would usually hit with D-Ford at first and Noonan, Buster, Roger, and Neal hitting behind me. They had to throw me fastballs so Fordy wouldn’t steal and they had to throw me strikes with the big hitters coming up next.
AZG: Sidenote, you have to be happy about not having to travel to Lancaster any longer right? We drove up there to see the team last year and it was brutally cold and outrageously windy.
Crawford - I think we had one of our coldest games down there, but as a hitter, it’s not so bad with 20mph wind blowing out to center.
AZG: On the other side of the coin was Connecticut, which was a bit of a struggle at times. How much of that was just fatigue of your first full season versus adjustments in Double A?
Crawford - I would say most of it was just trying to make adjustments. I think a scouting report may have gotten out and I started getting a lot of off-speed pitches. I started working on off-speed before every game and then I wasn’t hitting the fastball. It was definitely a season of changes.
AZG: San Jose and Connecticut couldn’t be farther away from each other and in completely different weather. Obviously, everyone wants to move up leagues as fast as they can, but could you speak about the transition of joining a new team midway through the season and how Connecticut was different competition wise?
Crawford - As much as I enjoyed the San Jose team and being 30 minutes from home, it was obviously very nice to get promoted. The biggest differences between San Jose and Connecticut were the weather and the fan base. Connecticut was colder and looked like it was going to rain everyday. Since it is on the East coast, there wasn’t a whole lot of Giants fans out there either. If we played the Red Sox or Yankees affiliates at home they would get more fans than we would.
Competition wise, the biggest difference I saw was the pitchers being able to locate and throw at least two pitches for strikes in any count. In San Jose, most pitchers would throw 3-1, 2-0 fastballs. In Connecticut, they would throw, and be able to locate, a curve or change in the same count.
AZG: You were then selected to play in the AFL. What was the bets part of that experience?
Crawford - I’d say just being able to play with and against some of the best prospects in baseball. It was an honor to be part of that group.
AZG: At the plate in Arizona, you got the swing back ending the season with a .312 average. As I’ve noted many times on the site, you played 99% of the time at 3B. Since you were playing 3B was the focus primarily on hitting?
Crawford - I wasn’t really worried about defense and wanted to get more AB’s against quality pitching. I knew I could hit better than I showed in Connecticut and wanted to prove it in the AFL.
I was told before the Fall League started that I would get limited action at short. didn’t know I’d play as much 3B as I did, but I didn’t mind. It was kind of fun because I hadn’t played (the position) since my sophomore year of high school.
AZG: How hard is it for players to gear up for another two months of competition? How taxing is it on the body?
Crawford - It was definitely a great privilege but it was tough to gear up for another 30 or so games after thinking the season was done. I don’t think the Fall League was too bad on the body mainly because I was only playing three or four games a week. It was much different than playing a few weeks without an off day.
AZG: What was it like to face Strasburg? Dirty?
Crawford - He’s definitely more than just a “thrower”; he’s a good pitcher. It was the first time I had faced him and heard all about how hard he threw, so I was expecting (especially as the 2-hole hitter in the first inning) mostly fastballs. The first pitch was a fastball but I took it because it’s hard to get the timing down when the guy’s throwing 98mph. He eventually got me on a swinging change up (90mph). My second AB I I grounded to short (he was only 94-95mph then).
AZG: We have The Freak, Kung Fu Panda, B Weeze, and now…The Professor (courtesy of Steve Edlefsen). What do you think?
The Professor - First of all I’d like to thank Steve “Stuff” Edlefsen for the nickname. He thinks it’s the best one. I like it too. It’s funny and original and I think that’s how nicknames are supposed to be. We’ll see if it sticks. (Laughs)
AZG: It’s now a short off season for you, what’s the plan to prepare for Spring?
The Professor - First, I am going to the Giants conditioning camp down in Scottsdale. Then I’m going to keep working out , hitting, throwing, etc. throughout the whole nine weeks. Other than that, I am planning on enjoying the holidays with family and friends.
AZG: As always with these interviews, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans in closing?
The Professor - Thanks for the support all season, let’s keep it going next year. See you all in Spring Training!
If you’d like to see more of Brandon, please check out the flickr feed from this year’s AFL, here.