Stats: MiLB | B-Ref | Fangraphs | Baseball America | Baseball Prospectus | MLBFarm
► Reports and Scouting:
Risk: Medium – Crawford struggled at the plate for much of 2016. His defense should carry him to the majors and give his value a high floor. However, to become a franchise cornerstone, Crawford will need to improve his impact at the plate. His approach is one of the best in the minor leagues, so he just needs to get better at maximizing the advantageous positions he generates for himself.
Summary: Crawford’s season looks like a disappointment at first glance. He didn’t hit for average and didn’t hit for power, and when the time came for call ups, he was still in Lehigh Valley. Crawford struggled with injury, and he sold out for power that never materialized. However, the core of Crawford’s game has only improved. He is at least a plus defender and will be one of the best defensive shortstops in the majors almost immediately. Crawford has great instincts in the field to go with good range, a strong arm, and soft hands. His fluidity in the field has the tendency to cause difficult plays to look routine. At the plate, Crawford has one of the best approaches in the minor leagues and spent most of the season with more walks than strikeouts. Crawford continued to work pitchers and put himself into positive hitting situations, but he failed to follow through with quality contact. Crawford did all this at age 21, and he was the youngest player in the International League for most of his time there. His swing is relatively simple, and his strong wrists allow him to spray the ball over the field, especially when he shortens up with two strikes. Crawford needs to get stronger, a goal he and the Phillies share this winter, in order to let the power come more naturally. It might not happen immediately, but at his peak Crawford could hit 15-20 home runs. He should also have an on base percentage among the league leaders. His combination of offensive and defensive upside make Crawford one of the best prospects in the game.
2017 Outlook: Crawford will return to Lehigh Valley to start the 2017 season. If he performs well from the start, he could force Freddy Galvis off shortstop in Philly quickly. Unless he forces the issue, he might not be in the majors until after the Super 2 deadline, as the Phillies attempt to reduce his future compensation.
Risk: Medium – To reach his full ceiling, Crawford will need to get stronger and add more power to his game. He did struggle to make quality contact against left handed pitching, but that should improve with more reps.
Summary: The non-graduation of Corey Seager and Byron Buxton means that Crawford will not be the #1 prospect in baseball this offseason, but he should still be an easy Top 5 on any list. Crawford’s raw tools are not going to jump off a scouting report — no 70 or 80 grade to be found. What is there is a plus hit tool, coming from good bat speed and a great feel for contact. That plays into average raw power, which should show up more in games as Crawford grows stronger. He is also an average to slightly above runner, though he can struggle to get up to speed at times. At shortstop Crawford has a plus glove with excellent actions, especially turning the double play. His arm has plus strength and accuracy, even if he is prone to making simple errors when he rushes a play. All of that combined at shortstop is probably a first division player, but Crawford is elite at what comes in between the raw tools. His pitch recognition and approach at the plate might be the best in the minors, and in 2015 he walked (63) more than he struck out (54). It isn’t just patience that makes Crawford elite; he takes close pitches and works counts into favorable positions, while not being afraid to attack juicy pitches. His two-strike approach is amazing, with the ability to wait back and use his quick hands and strong wrists to line pitches to all fields. This means that while he lacks the elite bat speed of Nick Williams or loud raw power of some his contemporaries, Crawford gets more out of his physical tools at the plate, and they will likely play in games above their raw grades. Crawford is not without flaws, however. He is prone to simple mental errors in the field, all of which are correctable, but he will need to clean them up before reaching the majors. On the bases, Crawford struggles to get good jumps and has not been an efficient base stealer yet. In Reading, Crawford struggled vs left handed pitching, only posting a .227/.289/.327 line against them with an un-Crawford like 1:2 BB:K ratio. All of these things are not career threatening, and are more just oppurtunities for improvement that will determine whether Crawford is an elite superstar or just merely very good. Crawford’s season ended on a bit of a down note, as he had a rough 5 games in the Arizona Fall League and then exited the league with a broken thumb. The injury bookended Crawford’s season with missed time, as he missed April with an oblique injury, but Crawford has already been declared 100% healthy and there are no lingering concerns. All of the Phillies’ trades during the rebuild have brought talent into the organization, but no future superstars. Crawford is that superstar and the core building block of what is hopefully another World Series team.
2016 Outlook: The Phillies could send Crawford back to Reading if they wanted, but it seems like the organization would like to keep their top group of prospects together. That would likely mean a trip to Lehigh Valley along with Williams, Thompson, Appel, Knapp, Eflin, and others. That whole group should be pushing for the majors by the middle of the season. When he is ready, the Phillies shortstop job will be waiting for Crawford.
What Happened: Crawford missed the end of spring training and all of April to an oblique injury. When he came back he hit his way through Clearwater before moving to Reading. In Reading, Crawford showed a little less BABIP and a lot more power. His approach at the plate is well beyond his years and he has maintained more walks than strikeouts all year. His defense is still plus and he is very smooth both fielding the ball and turning the double play. The result has been a consensus top 5 prospect in baseball and a potential superstar
What Next: If there is a weakness in Crawford’s game it is his weakness against LHPs. I see no reason why he won’t improve, but for now it remains a struggle for him. He should hit for more power going forward as he physically matures. He will likely spend the rest of the season in Reading, with a AAA start in line for next season.
Role: First Division Regular, occasional All-Star
Risk: Medium – Crawford still has yet to face upper minors pitching, but his defensive tools give him a high floor, even if the bat doesn’t fully develop.
Summary: No Phillies prospect had a bigger breakout year than J.P. Crawford. The 2013 first round pick has cemented himself as one of the top prospects in the game. The best way to describe Crawford in the field is smooth. His glove could be plus or better once he cleans up some minor flaws, but his range is great, and his actions are solid. Crawford has plus arm strength, but he does not always get everything out of it. All this makes him natural defender at shortstop, and I have no questions about his ability to stick at the position and be very good there. On offense, Crawford has a good feel for contact, but more impressively his plate discipline has been incredible as a pro (so far in his career he has 97 walks and 109 strikeouts in 766 plate appearances). Right now, Crawford’s power is below average and only to his pull side, but in batting practice he shows the possibility for more once he adds some more strength. It is still unlikely that Crawford will hit more than 20 home runs in a year, because his swing is more geared for line drives than fly balls, however more strength will mean plenty of doubles to the gaps. Crawford has plus raw speed, but between starts and instincts, he has not been a good base stealer so far. All of this sounds rather good, but not great. However, here are 2014’s three best batting lines (by wRC+) by players who will be playing SS in 2015:
AVG OBP SLG .263 .336 .443 .292 .339 .438 .255 .313 .430
The offensive bar at shortstop is fairly low, and Crawford should be able to hit for a good average, draw plenty of walks, and hit for a decent amount of power. Put it all together, and you have a player who could be one of the better offensive shortstops in the game. If he can add that to plus defense, he could become a borderline All-Star and franchise player. Crawford should open the year in AA and would be fine to spend the whole year in Reading before a possible 2016 arrival in the majors.