There’s no denying that J.P. Crawford still has an extremely bright future in baseball. The problem is that maybe he was a little over-hyped as he worked his way through the Phillies minor league system. The Phillies are hoping that Crawford doesn’t become just another example of players who seem to have everything going for them, only to stall when they hit the upper levels of the minors.
Crawford played his first game with Triple-A Lehigh Valley last May 20th and hit .244 in 87 games with the IronPigs. This season, Crawford opened the season with Lehigh Valley and has yet to find his offensive groove. Crawford has yet to hit the .200 mark this season, with his season-high mark coming after Tuesday night’s game in which he went 2-for-4, upping his average to .167 with Lehigh Valley.
“Sometimes, it’s good for young players to struggle, you find out a lot about them and they find out a lot about themselves,” said Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan. “You’d rather have them struggle and pull themselves out of it down here than struggle when they go to the majors and not know how to deal with it. If he goes to the majors and struggles at some point, he can say, ‘I’ve been through this before, I can get through it.'”
On Thursday, Baseball America released an updated list of their top 100 prospects in baseball. Crawford entered the season at number 12 on the list, but has been bumped down to number 19 on their update. He’s now no longer the top Phillies prospect, with outfielder Mickey Moniak moving up to 13th from his preseason spot at 17th. Jorge Alfaro moved from 41st to 32nd, and Sixto Sanchez made a major jump, going from 80th to 61st on the list of the top 100. IronPigs first baseman, Rhys Hoskins entered the list at number 88.
The BA rankings seem to echo what scouts around the ballpark have also noted about Crawford. One advance scout in attendance at Coca-Cola Park was especially skeptical of what he’s seen in Crawford.
“I’ve seen him a number of times over the past couple of seasons, and he just doesn’t seem to be adjusting. Usually, you see guys make adjustments that you can recognize over time, having seen them. I just see him having the same problems and struggling in the same spots that I did before,” said the scout. “I always thought he would fix those holes, but he’s not, and now that he’s facing better pitching on a more consistent basis, he’s struggling.”
To his credit, Crawford is getting on base with some walks, which he wasn’t doing early in the season. In the first ten games of the season, Crawford struck out 12 times and walked five times. In the 20 games since then, he’s struck out 13 times and walked 14 times. He’s also reached base in each of the last 17 games either with a hit or a walk. It’s also worth noting that Crawford is still just 22 and has time to make the needed adjustments.
“There’s something to be said for players getting used to adversity. You like to see them experience all of the highs – like being on a championship team – and all of the lows, like J.P. is seeing now, and get a feeling for how they react to the ups and downs of baseball. Ideally, they’re the same guy when they’re leading the league in hitting as they are when they’re hitting under .200, because you always want them to be working on their game and realizing that there are going to be twists and turns,” said the scout.
If the Phillies had written a script for Crawford, he would be burning up the International League right now and looking to make them force their hand on what they’re going to do with their major league double-play combination. An emerging Crawford could have made dealing either Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez an option around the trade deadline. Now, the Phillies aren’t likely to consider adding Crawford to the major league club until September at the earliest, unless things change dramatically.