Phillies prospect Crawford making major progress

ASSOCIATED PRESS J.P. Crawford steals second, beating tag of Javier Baez, during sixth inning of yesterday's All-Star Futures Game.
ASSOCIATED PRESS J.P. Crawford steals second, beating tag of Javier Baez, during sixth inning of yesterday's All-Star Futures Game.
Posted: July 15, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS - J.P. Crawford, sandwiched between Chicago Cubs power-hitting prospect Kris Bryant and White Sox infield prospect Micah Johnson, sat easily in front of his locker stall in the home clubhouse at Target Field.

He was a couple of hours away from taking the field with the 50 players selected among the game's top prospects to play in yesterday's All-Star Futures Game. He was just 402 days removed from being drafted by the Phillies out of Lakewood (Calif.) High School.

It's been a remarkably quick ascension for the teenager.

"Couldn't be going any better," Crawford said. "Everything's been going great."

Crawford was the youngest player on the United States' team roster and the youngest position player among the 50 players. He doesn't turn 20 until January.

"I didn't think I'd be here in my first year, maybe in the next 2 or 3 years," he said of being selected for the Futures Game. "It came a lot faster than I planned."

With a dearth of position player prospects, the Phillies can only hope Crawford continues to be a quick riser within the minor league system.

Crawford is hitting .279 with a .774 OPS, seven home runs and 14 stolen bases in 81 games this season between Low A Lakewood and Class A Clearwater. He made it to Clearwater midway through the third month of his first full minor league season.

Crawford was promoted to Clearwater on June 15 - less than a year after he signed his first professional contract.

"That was one of my goals this year, move up a level this year and maybe get do Double A by the end of the year," said Crawford, who hit .295 with an .804 OPS in 60 games at Lakewood to begin the season.

The Phillies obviously thought highly enough of Crawford to select him with the 16th pick in last year's draft. Their feelings haven't changed: Last month the Phils shifted fellow shortstop prospect Roman Quinn to centerfield to open a spot for Crawford in Clearwater.

The move made it clear that Crawford is viewed as the organization's shortstop of the future, the heir apparent to Jimmy Rollins. Crawford said he was pumped, but glad to team up with the 21-year-old Quinn in the same lineup, too.

"We were battling," Crawford said. "We're also close friends. To finally be on the same team together, 1-2 spot in the lineup. It's going to be fun . . . He loves it [in the outfield]. It's like letting an animal free, just let him use his legs."

In front of all the eyes of the baseball world - well, at least those in Minneapolis or tuned into the game on MLB Network - Crawford showed his athleticism as the U.S. Futures beat the World Futures, 3-2, yesterday.

He turned a doubleplay in his first inning on the field, showing off a nice, easy throwing motion. He fisted a base hit into shallow centerfield and stole a base.

In his second at-bat, Crawford nearly beat out an infield single. He wore a wide smile when he returned to the place his day began, at the locker stall in the Minnesota Twins' spacious home clubhouse.

Needless to say, J.P. Crawford is thrilled with his first 13 months in the Phillies organization.

"It's been great," he said. "Living on your own, not having to worry about any school or any problems back home. You wake up and play baseball. You can't ask for anything better than that."

Philly connections

Two of the eight infielders on the U.S. roster at yesterday's Futures Game had Philly connections. Crawford and Red Sox prospect Sean Coyle, who played for Germantown Academy.

Coyle, 22, was drafted by Boston in the third round of the 2010 draft.

"This is where you want to be," Coyle said, "even if you're in the big leagues. You'd want to be here for the next couple of days [for the All-Star Game]."

Coyle is hitting .336 with a .997 OPS in 64 games at the Red Sox' Double A affiliate in Portland this season.

Although 10 of the 25 players on the U.S. team hailed from the traditional baseball climates of California, Texas and Florida, Coyle knows there are more Northeast players headed to Minneapolis this week. American League All-Stars Mike Trout (Millville High School) and Sean Doolittle (Shawnee High School) are both from South Jersey.

"I think it has a lot to do with the accessibility guys have with facilities in the winter," Coyle said of the rise of talent coming from the Northeast. "You look around and I'm sure you'll notice, there are places on every corner with cages and weight rooms and top-notch stuff. Jersey, Pa.-area. I think it evens the playing field for guys in cold climates in the offseason."

Coyle lives in Chalfont and worked out this offseason in Northeast Philly and Bensalem.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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