Legendary outfielder Johnny Damon praises Phillies prospect Justin Crawford.
The Philadelphia Phillies have swung and missed on several first-round picks over the years. Consider left-hander Jesse Biddle (2010) and outfielder Larry Greene (2011) as examples — or, more recently, outfielders Mickey Moniak (2016) and Adam Haseley (2017).
But perhaps things are finally trending in the right direction. The Phillies selected third baseman Alec Bohm third overall back in 2018, followed by middle infielder Bryson Stott 14th overall a year later. Right-handed pitchers Mick Abel (15th overall, 2020) and Andrew Painter (13th overall, 2021), meanwhile are considered the organization’s top pitching prospects — both of whom were recently promoted to Double-A.
Then comes the 2022 Phillies first-round draft selection. After selecting outfielders Moniak and Haseley, President of Dave Dombrowski is hoping the third time will be the charm. Selected 17th overall in this summer’s amateur draft out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, Justin Crawford is the son of former 2008 World Series rival Carl Crawford.
In a recent interview with TMZ Sports, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees legendary outfielder Johnny Damon had nothing but praise for the newest Phillies centerfield prospect:
"“The first two picks this year were former ballplayers’ kids. I’m happy for Carl. I know his son is going to have a great major-league career. [He will] probably steal 500 bases, hit a couple of hundred home runs, and just be a menace to his opponents throughout the years.”"
Damon — who played for a season under then-Detroit Tigers executive Dombrowski in 2010 — surely made a bold prediction for Justin. Five-hundred stolen bases would put him 40th all-time in Major League Baseball history in the category. The active leader is Dee Strange-Gordon, son of former Phillies closer Tom Gordon, with 336 stolen bases. Strange-Gordon hasn’t played full-time since 2019. In other words, stolen bases are a dying aspect of the game, but perhaps Justin can bring it back with a vengeance.
The Phillies previously drafted Justin’s dad’s cousin, infielder J.P. Crawford, in the first round of the 2013 draft — before trading him to the Seattle Mariners after the 2018 season as part of the trade for Jean Segura.
J.P. has since turned into a Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop. Carl was a Gold Glove Award-winning outfielder in 2010 — his final year with the Rays before finishing his career with the Boston Red Sox (2011-12) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2013-16).
If the family trend continues, odds are good that Justin will be a plus-defender in the majors as well. And don’t forget speed on the base paths. Carl stole 480 bases across his 15 big-league seasons, including 409 with the Rays from 2002 to 2010. Justin already has four stolen bases in his first four games as a Phillies prospect, with three of them coming in his professional debut.
Damon recalled how Justin’s dad, Carl, would “drive him crazy” with his speed:
"“Carl Crawford was such a great baseball player. He always drove me crazy when I was playing in the outfield because he would make us make mistakes. It was amazing.”"
Seeing this kind of praise from a two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star outfielder has to make Phillies fans feel optimistic for the future. While Brandon Marsh appears to be the team’s current fix in center field, Crawford seems poised to be the next great Phillies speedy outfielder to follow in the footsteps of 2008 World Series champion Shane Victorino.