(Part Four of an ongoing series on the New Look Philadelphia Phillies, and some of the prospects who could play a role in the team's return to contention.)
I intentionally did not go into much depth concerning this next player, simply because he's spent less than a month's time in the big leagues. However, between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the majors, he found his way into 150 games and gave more than a subtle indication that he could be ready to take his place at short for the Phillies.
J.P. Crawford (.243, 15, 63 in Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Seems like we've been waiting on this young man for ages, doesn't it?
A first-rounder in 2013, Crawford is still only 22 years old, having made his Triple-A debut in 2016. He didn't make a great impression in his first go-round with Lehigh Valley, as he appeared at times to let his failures pour over into all other aspects of his game. Of course, at 21, how many of us were mature enough to handle the sort of pressure that comes with an immediate christening as a future MLB starter and potential star?
Making his encore appearance with Lehigh Valley in 2017, his extra-base pop finally asserted itself when he slugged 15 homers, 20 doubles and six triples, a modest total for many prospects but more than adequate for someone whose athleticism and ML-ready defense skill set has always been his primary strength.
He did strike out a career-high 97 times in the process, but his control of the strike zone and quick bat give him a good chance of handling more-advanced pitching in the majors as long as he doesn't become too focused on power production. Crawford drew 79 walks as well, and has always been able to pick up his fair share of free passes from the beginning of his pro career.
His OPS at Lehigh Valley (.756) was more or less in-line with expectations; his ability to go to the opposite field year after year was nearly off-set with a pull-heavy approach (48.1% in Triple-A), but he went oppo with 40.8% of his hits during his 23 games in Philly, a likely combination of fighting off premium breaking pitches and adjusting to top-of-the-line fastballs. He acquitted himself well at short, also (17 errors in 113 games), and Freddy Galvis was moved from short in order to accommodate Crawford.
A side-note: until Crawford's promotion, Galvis had made it clear to management that he had every intention of starting every single game at short. Keep in mind that Galvis is as steady as they come at short (.989 fld pct in 2017), though Crawford has the edge in terms of range.
Given his growth over the past year, Crawford has a great shot at being the starting shortstop for the Phillies as they break camp in 2018. At this point, there's not an awful lot holding him back, just so long as he is ready for ML pitching. It will be interesting to see how he does coming out of the gate.