Phillies trying prospect Crawford at third

Phillies trying prospect Crawford at third

SAN FRANCISCO -- J.P. Crawford is moving to third base, at least temporarily to find him playing time next month in the big leagues.

He started at third base Sunday evening with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is the first time Crawford, who is the No. 61 prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, has played anywhere other than shortstop in 503 career Minor League games.

"It's just about versatility," Phillies assistant general manager Ned Rice said before Sunday's series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park. "It benefits the player and benefits the team when more guys are able to play multiple positions. It just gives Pete [Mackanin] a lot more options at the big league level. The more guys we can bring up who have been exposed to different positions, the better."

Rice said the Phillies had been talking the past couple of weeks about Crawford playing third base.

"Going into Spring Training next year, we want to get a look at guys at different positions," Rice said. "We'll continue to do that at all levels. It's possible we give him a look at second base also. There will probably be other guys, too, who will move around."

He mentioned that Triple-A second baseman Scott Kingery could play shortstop or third base before the end of the year.

Internally, the Phillies have been wondering how to handle Crawford and incumbent shortstop Freddy Galvis.

Galvis, 27, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. He entered Sunday hitting .262 with 25 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .723 OPS, which is 50 points higher than his previous career high. He also is incredibly popular and respected in the clubhouse. Mackanin and the coaching staff might be his biggest fans.

Galvis has said he wants to start 162 games this season and Mackanin has said he wants to make that happen. In fact, in recent weeks, whenever Mackanin has been asked about Crawford's possible promotion, he has reacted coolly to it.

But the Phillies need to learn about Crawford, in part because he has big-time potential and in part because Galvis is a free agent following the 2018 season.

Crawford's play the past two months has earned him a promotion, too, most likely following the IronPigs season. Crawford, 22, has hit .288 with 13 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 33 RBIs and a .944 OPS in 241 plate appearances since June 20. He has walked 32 times and struck out 42 times in that span.

It is a complete turnaround from a poor first half. He hit .194 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 21 RBIs and a .565 OPS in 244 plate appearances through June 10.

"We haven't figured out what we're doing in September yet," Rice said. "But it's important for the next few weeks to see how he looks at different places."

Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco entered Sunday hitting .222 with 22 doubles, one triple, 17 home runs and a .665 OPS. He ranked last among 23 qualified third basemen in OPS. Crawford's future remains at shortstop, but playing in place of Franco allows him to gain experience entering next season.

"I think it's similar to [Rhys] Hoskins," said Rice, referring to the first baseman playing primarily left field with the Phillies. "It's a fact-finding mission. [Phillies GM] Matt [Klentak's] always said: You need the talent and readiness to meet an opportunity. The more different places you can play, that increases the odds of an opportunity. If he shows he can play multiple positions well, it makes it easier to fit."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.