Phillies send top prospect Crawford to Minor League camp

Alfaro (No. 3 prospect) and Williams (No. 4) also demoted Friday

Phillies send top prospect Crawford to Minor League camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies' future is now … going to begin this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley .

A big portion of it, at least. Shortstop J.P Crawford, the organization's No. 1 prospect -- and No. 6 overall in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com -- was reassigned to Minor League camp Friday, while catcher Jorge Alfaro (No. 3) and outfielder Nick Williams (No. 4) were optioned to the Minors.

"I like all of them," said manager Pete Mackanin. "They need to go down and get consistent at-bats on a daily basis and get off to a quick start. We told all of them, 'Make us call you up. Do well enough to force our hand.'"

In addition, outfielder Cameron Perkins, infielder Taylor Featherston and right-hander Pedro Beato were reassigned to Minor League camp. Right-hander Ben Lively, who pitched in Friday's 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays, also was optioned.

None of the moves was unexpected.

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"They told me they want to get me ready," the 22-year-old Crawford said. "They want me to start playing a lot more innings with a lot more at-bats. So I think I can do that down there and just get ready for the season."

After going through his second big league camp and adding five to 10 pounds of muscle to his frame during the offseason, Crawford believes that he's close to being ready to take the final step to the big leagues. But he's not going to obsess about it.

"Definitely, I feel like I can compete with all of these guys," he said. "I just can't wait to get going for the season. I'm not really thinking about [being promoted]. I just have to go out there every day and get better. If they call me up, they call me up. I'm not worried about that."

Said the 23-year-old Alfaro, who played for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic: "It's always hard to hear those kinds of words, getting sent down. But it is what it is. You just have to go out there and keep playing hard, keep doing what you're doing and keep playing 100 percent all the time."

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Alfaro said that being a September callup last year is a motivation to get back to the big leagues.

"I don't want to be down there anymore," he said. "I wanted to break camp with the team. That's not going to happen right now. I'm just going to go and keep playing hard. That's all I can do."

Williams, 23, slumped down the stretch last season for the IronPigs, and he said earlier this spring that the biggest reason was that he was trying too hard to prove that he belonged in the Major Leagues. He vowed not to make the same mistake again.

Williams' leaping catch

"I'm trying not to think of the big leagues," said Williams, who hit .286 with an .804 OPS in 15 Grapefruit League games. "I just want to go out and play hard. This spring made me feel like I can play here. Whenever that time is, I have no idea. [But] going through this spring made me truly believe I can play here."

The Phillies have 44 players remaining in camp: 17 right-handed pitchers, four left-handers, one ambidextrous pitcher (Pat Venditte), five catchers, nine infielders and eight outfielders.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.