The Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects countdown concludes here at TBOH with the #1 player on our list.
Let’s face it, there is very little new that can be said or written about shortstop J.P. Crawford, the consensus top prospect in the Phillies system. He is unsurprisingly at the top of our TBOH 2016 Phillies Top 10 Prospects list.
John Paul Crawford was born on January 11th, 1995 in Lakewood, California. He is somewhat a rarity in that it was a pair of females who had the most influence over first his introduction to the game, and then in his early development.
In an exclusive interview last April, Crawford told me that it was his older sister who introduced him to the game as a kid: “I’d go out to her practices when I was young. Then when I was old enough, I started to play.” He also credits his coach as a youth, Lisa Beato: “She was the best coach growing up, and she taught me how to compete, and how to win.”
Crawford went on to develop his game as a kid with the Urban Youth Academy and RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) programs in Compton, California. Crawford experienced both team and individual success, as his team won the RBI World Series at Marlins Park in Miami, and Crawford was named the Most Valuable Player.
His dad, Larry Crawford, was a pro football player in the CFL during the 1980’s following a collegiate career at Iowa State University. He was a 4x CFL All-Star as a defensive back, and won the Grey Cup with the BC Lions in 1985.
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His cousin, Carl Crawford, was the 2nd round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1999 MLB Amateur Draft, and has enjoyed a 14-year career in Major League Baseball. “My dad and Carl said to have fun in doing it. To remember that it’s still a game.”
J.P. went on to star as a shortstop at Lakewood High School. He found personal heroes in the pro game with a pair of players with whom he could relate: “Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter were my favorites to watch. Being African-American and playing shortstop, I wanted to be just like them.”
After his graduation from high school, the Phillies made Crawford their 1st round selection at 16th overall in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft. He had a scholarship offer from and commitment to attend USC, but turned it down in order to sign for a $2.299 million bonus with the Phillies.
The Phils started Crawford out with their rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League in that summer of 2013. His successful performance caused the organization to bump him to A-level Lakewood in the South Atlantic League for 14 late summer games.
He combined for a .308/.405/.400 slash line with 34 runs scored and 14 steals that first season over his first 228 professional plate appearances, and was named to the Gulf Coast League postseason All-Star team.
Crawford split the following 2014 season evenly between Lakewood and High-A Clearwater. He produced a combined .285/.375/.406 slash line with 11 homers, 48 RBI, 69 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases over 538 plate appearances. He was selected as a mid-season all-star at Lakewood, and was also selected to appear in the prestigious Futures Game.
Last year, Crawford continued his incremental rise through the Phils’ farm system. He began back in Clearwater after missing the first month of the season while recovering from a spring training oblique injury, but was promoted to AA Reading in short order.
With the Reading Fightin’ Phils, Crawford produced a .265/.354/.407 slash line with 21 doubles, seven triples, five homers, and 53 runs scored in 405 plate appearances. He was again a mid-season all-star selection, and was again a participant in the Futures Game.
For the last two years, Crawford has been recognized as the top prospect in the Phillies organization by every major evaluation service. His scouting report at MLB.com reads the following in part:
“Crawford has an impressive all-around skill set and can impact the game on both sides of the ball. There is no question about his ability to stay at shortstop, as he is a smooth fielder with sure hands, a plus arm and good range. He is a disciplined hitter with good on-base skills and the speed to steal bases.”
Baseball Prospectus is also glowing: “Crawford is an elite shortstop prospect. The glove and approach should make him a good regular for the next decade on their own, with star potential if the bat reaches its ceiling.”
Baseball America wrapped his review up with: “After an excellent season at Double-A, Crawford embarked on a trip to the Arizona Fall League to continue to add polish. He’s slated to begin 2016 as the gem of a stocked Triple-A Lehigh Valley club and should soon join Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola as the new core of the Phillies.”
Here at TBOH, all seven of our staffers ranked the 6’2, 180 pound, 21-year old, lefty-hitting Crawford as the #1 Phillies prospect on each of our individual lists, the only player who achieved unanimous status for any place on the list.
“Crawford is hands down the #1 for me,” said Alexis Girardo. “He is a top five prospect in baseball. He is a well-rounded player, great defense and bat. His eye at the plate is excellent, and I am hopeful we will see him at CBP this year.”
Ryan Gerstel repeated those wishes for a Crawford-sighting at Citizens Bank Park this coming season: “The 21-year-old shortstop has the skills both at the plate and in the field to make an impact day in and day out. He is expected to be the next Jimmy Rollins, which is setting the bar pretty high. Crawford should be able to show the Phillies if he’s the real deal sometime in 2016.”
Our Mike Azzalina called Crawford “an incredibly smooth defender who has above average speed on the bases. Crawford can be a perennial all-star if he finds a way to improve his power and ability to hit left-handed pitching. My guess is that he will, since he was incredibly young playing in AA.”
I will echo all of their sentiments, and agree with our Ethan Witte who stated: “Any time you have a player in consideration to be called the top prospect in the entire game, it makes it an easy call.”
The JRoll comparisons are natural. Rollins was the Phillies longtime shortstop, a smooth defender who was also a strong all-around offensive player. Crawford looks to have that kind of potential. When I asked him last spring if he envisioned himself as a 20-20 or more player at the big league level, his response was encouraging: “I’ve been working on getting stronger. So I think there’s a good possibility that a 20-20 can happen.”
Crawford has received his first invitation to big league camp, where fans of the team who head down to Bright House Field will be able to get a first look at him. Judging by a Tweet that he sent out on Valentine’s Day while enjoying a final trip to Disney Land with his lady before spring training, Crawford is ready to get going.
Crawford should be the starting shortstop this season at AAA Lehigh Valley, and if he excels could well end his season in Philadelphia. That could come in the middle of this summer, or by September at the latest.
To view all of the writeups on each of our TBOH Top 10 Phillies Prospects, you can simply visit our website in the “Minors” section at the tool bar, and available from this piece at this link. For convenience sake, here is the full list:
- J.P. Crawford, SS
- Nick Williams, OF
- Jake Thompson, P
- Mark Appel, P
- Cornelius Randolph, OF
- Jorge Alfaro, C
- Franklyn Kilome, P
- Zach Eflin, P
- Roman Quinn, OF
- The Field: Andrew Knapp, C / Scott Kingery, 2B / Adonis Medina, P / Tyler Goeddel, OF / Tom Windle, P
What appears certain is that, barring any injury disasters, Crawford will be the Phillies starting shortstop on Opening Day 2017, and the team and its fans hope for many seasons to come. He could be the #2 hitter in the lineup as the team returns to contending status at some point early in his career.