No. 1: Shortstop J.P. Crawford
In my midseason version of this list, I had J.P. Crawford as the seventh-best prospect in the system. He had struggled to hit the first two months of the season and many major prospect outlets had written him off entirely. Hopes for Crawford’s future were down considerably. However, all the negative talk surrounding Crawford was just motivation for him:
After that tweet, Crawford went on a tear, hitting .287/.385/.513 with nine home runs, 29 runs batted in, and 35 runs scored in 51 games. Rather than playing with Lehigh Valley in the International League playoffs, he was promoted to get his first taste of the major-leagues.
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In the majors, Crawford continued to walk at a high rate of 18.4 percent, leading to a .356 on-base percentage. Despite having all-around decent plate discipline numbers, Crawford still had a 25.3 percent strikeout rate, leading to a .214 batting average. Considering his strikeout numbers throughout his minor-league career, even at his worst, it’s hard to imagine that trend continuing.
Crawford only got to play six games at shortstop because of Pete Mackain’s hesitance to pull Freddy Galvis from the starting lineup. Instead, he spent most of his time at third base in place of the struggling Maikel Franco.
Next year, Crawford could wind up at any one of shorstop, third, or second base depending on what the team does in the offseason. He is defensively sound enough to play all of those positions well, but he is best suited at shortstop. Crawford may not be the same Gold-Glove caliber defender Galvis is, but he’s still a plus defender at the position.
Even if Crawford doesn’t start next year as the everyday shortstop, that will ultimately be his role with the team. His turnaround in the second half of the year should ease concerns about his ability to hit as he moves up the ladder. He will be 23 years old next season, making him one of the youngest players on a team full of young players.