The Philadelphia Phillies minor league organization has enjoyed a welcome resurgence over the last two seasons.
A handful of astute trades have built up the quality and depth, particularly at the upper levels.
But a big piece of the organizational improvement has come via the draft process.
Because the big league club has deteriorated, the Phillies have been selecting at or near the top of the MLB Amateur Draft for the last four seasons, and have largely made those picks count.
In 2014 it was starting pitcher Aaron Nola, who joined the rotation a year later. That draft also produced first baseman Rhys Hoskins in the fifth round. He shared the organizational Paul Owens Award this year.
In 2015, the Phillies selected outfielder Cornelius Randolph at 10th overall, and then chose second baseman Scott Kingery in the second round. Both now rank within this Phillies Fall 2016 Top Ten Prospects countdown.
Two more players on the current countdown were produced in this year’s 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. Outfielder Mickey Moniak is ranked third, and pitcher Kevin Gowdy is now ranked at #9 on my Fall 2016 list of the Phillies top prospects.
PHILLIES DRAFT AND DEVELOP CRAWFORD
Selected at 16th overall back in the 2013 draft, J.P. Crawford quickly rose to become the Phillies top prospect. He held that position for most of the last couple of seasons. Now in this Fall 2016 countdown, the shortstop finishes ranked second among this improved group.
Crawford is a 6’2″, 180 pounder out of Lakewood High School in California. He will turn 22 years old in January, and is on the verge of making his big league debut.
Having risen incrementally through the Phillies farm system, Crawford has now received 1,817 minor league plate appearances. He has produced a cumulative .278 average with a .372 on-base percentage in his first 406 professional games.
THE 2015 CRAWFORD INTERVIEW
I had the pleasure of briefly interviewing Crawford back in April 2015. At that time he was recuperating from an oblique injury that would keep him out until May.
In the interview, Crawford said that his older sister had first introduced him to the game. He talked of his experiences with the Urban Youth Academy and MLB RBIprograms, crediting his youth coach, Lisa Beato, with much of his early development.
Crawford went on to talk about his biggest influences among modern players. These included his uncle, big leaguer Carl Crawford, as well as a pair of shortstop icons, the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter.
KLENTAK ON CRAWFORD
After hearing his name for the last couple of years, I have begun to sense some Phillies fans growing impatient. He has been considered a key to the rebuilding program, and fans rightfully are interested in when he will arrive to help push that rebuild forward.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak addressed Crawford’s development and immediate future at the GM meetings earlier this month.
“He will start the year in Triple-A and his performance will dictate his timeline from there,” Klentak said per Kyle Glaser at Baseball America.
“Obviously J.P. has a unique ability to control the strike zone, which is something offensively we’re very proud of and happy about. His defense is really coming along and we really expect him to be a plus defender at shortstop. He had half a year at Triple-A and had to make some adjustments and we’re hopeful that as he begins the year there this year he’ll get off to a hot start and then we’ll see how the season is playing out.”
WHEN WILL CRAWFORD ARRIVE IN PHILLY?
To see Crawford in a Phillies uniform and playing with the team, all you will need to do is watch and follow the club in spring training. For a second straight season he will join the team there, continuing to ready himself for the inevitable promotion.
That promotion won’t come right away in 2017. But there is no reason that we should not see Crawford at Citizens Bank Park at some point next year.
Now it is all about his production, performance, and maturity fully catching up to the scouting reports and expectations with AAA Lehigh Valley.
It has been said that the most difficult leap for any professional athlete to make in any sport is that from the minor leagues to Major League Baseball. That is the leap that J.P. Crawford will now prepare to make.