On September 5th the Philadelphia Phillies promoted shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford to the major league roster. He made his big league debut against the New York Mets (starting at third base), going 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and a run scored. Crawford has been widely considered to be one of the top infield prospects in baseball for four years now, although it is still a bit unclear exactly what type of player he will be. Let’s explore.
The Phillies drafted Crawford in the first round in 2013 from high school in Lakewood, California. He was drafted for both bat and glove: he was a polished hitter and had the tools to play quality shortstop in the majors. Very effective at the lower levels, he stood out for on-base ability, hitting .285/.375/.406 between Low-A and High-A in 2014 and .288/.380/.418 between High-A and Double-A in 2015.
His production tailed off in Triple-A last year (.244/.328/.318) with a notable decline in power output. Nevertheless, Crawford ranked as the number one prospect pre-season on the Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 prospects list for 2017, with this commentary:
1) J.P. Crawford, SS, Grade B+: Age 21, hit .250/.349/.339 with seven homers, 72 walks, 80 strikeouts, 12 steals in 472 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; smooth defender with plus arm strength, plus range, plus fielding instincts and reliability; as a hitter, shows strong strike zone judgment but lacks power; more quick than fast on the bases if that makes sense and may never be a big steal guy; given his age the bat can improve a great deal since the basics are all here; needs more time in Triple-A for the bat to thrive. ETA late 2017.
Crawford got off to a slow start in 2017, hitting just .145 in April and .211/.328/.330 in the first half for Lehigh Valley. The second half was much better however: .287/.385/.513, leading to his promotion yesterday. A groin injury early in the year may have been a contributing factor to his slow start, or at least he played much better after returning from it.
A left-handed hitter, Crawford is 6-2, 180 pounds, born January 11, 1995. Despite the down-then-up nature of his 2017 season the overall outlook hasn’t changed much. As a hitter he features a solid feel for the strike zone and a willingness to work counts.
Although his production has been erratic against advanced minor league pitching there’s enough bat speed here to keep pitchers honest; Crawford will surprise you with his pull power.
Crawford started at third base yesterday but that’s due to roster issues rather than any trouble with his shortstop defense. His arm is strong and accurate, his range and instincts work well at short, and he is far more reliable than most infielders his age. He’s looked very good during limited trials at third base and second base and versatility will only help his value.
At age 22, Crawford is still three or four years away from his theoretical prime. He has the tools to be a regular shortstop who contributes on both sides of the ball, and his strong second half in the International League gives hope that the skills can match the tools. If that happens consistently, he could be an All Star.
Here’s a fun play: an inside-the-park Grand Slam.
Baseball Census has eight minutes of Crawford video here: