2016 Fantasy Baseball: Prospect Profile — J.P. Crawford
A lot of losing appears to be in the forecast for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies, but with long periods of losing comes the infusion of youth. Both Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera made their Major League debuts for the club in 2015 at the ages of 23 and 24 respectively, and some additional young talent could be on the horizon for the 2016 season.
Shortstop J.P. Crawford has been a highly touted MLB prospect since high school and has seen his stock continue to rise after performing well throughout his brief minor league career. At 21 years-old, Crawford features a 6’2”, 180 pound athletic build. He’s an incredibly advanced young hitter and has shown a disciplined approach at the plate with a very strong sense of the strike zone. Crawford started to develop some gap power this past season and rates very well in the many other facets of his game. With above-average speed, good on-base skills, and a very strong defensive portfolio, Crawford is expected to be an all-around impact player and will most likely find himself with the big league club at some point in 2016.
Aside from the obvious talent, one of the reasons that Crawford has had eyes on him for so long is because he is the cousin of Major League outfielder and former All-Star, Carl Crawford. Although J.P. doesn’t feature the same raw speed his older cousin did earlier in his career, he does possess the kind of skills across the board that scouts look for in a potential big league, everyday shortstop. Crawford’s great range, soft hands, and strong arm have scouts believing that he has Gold Gloves in his future and a reliable bat to go along with the defensive prowess.
Only four hitters were taken ahead of Crawford when he was drafted 16th overall by the Phillies in the 2013 MLB amateur player draft; one of which being last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant. Crawford should be the next hitter from that draft class to reach the big leagues after Bryant and will look to make a similar sort of splash with an invite to 2016 MLB Spring Training.
Crawford has been ranked in the top-50 by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, and Baseball America’s top prospect lists for years now and had been making huge leaps on those boards with each level of minor league baseball he masters. Crawford became a top-10 guy in the 2016 pre-season rankings by jumping from 78th in 2014, to 14th in 2015, to 6th this year for Baseball America and has also moved up from No. 21 to No. 5 on MLB.com’s rankings.
Despite playing with an average-age difference as large as -4.4 at some stops, Crawford has never been overwhelmed at any point in minors. He has hit at every level the Phillies have asked him to play, and he has posted a .382 OBP so far in his pro-career with a .290 batting average. Crawford posted another .380 OBP last season between High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading and drew nine more walks than he had strikeouts. Crawford also posted his highest slugging percentage since rookie ball and would have played in the Arizona Fall League this winter had he not tore a UCL in his left thumb. The injury kept Crawford from getting to test his abilities against the other top minor leaguers in the AFL, but he will be fully healed and ready to go come Spring Training.
Projection and Prediction
The Phillies have no reason to rush Crawford to the show with his recent injury and the current state of the Major League team; however, they really have no reason to hold him back either. With an advanced bat, very good plate discipline, and a strong body, Crawford has the all the tools to be a .280 plus big league hitter. As he continues to mature and fill out that 6’2” frame, Crawford should see some of his gap power translate to actual home run pop, which can make him a good 12 to 15 homer guy with Gold Glove caliber defense at short. He is still just 21 years-old and has never played above Double-A ball, so it’s hard to say what kind of impact Crawford will be able to make at the onslaught of his MLB debut. But at the very least, he should do quite a bit for stirring up excitement in Philadelphia this coming season.