Crawford displays potential among experienced field

Young shortstop honored by Class A Advanced promotion, Futures Game assignment

Crawford displays potential among experienced field

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The invitation to play in this year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Minnesota stunned J.P. Crawford.

Sure, Crawford put up great numbers last year, especially for his age, and started off strong with Class A Lakewood this season. And yes, he's already shown enough potential to be considered one of the Phillies' top prospects.

But the Futures Game? At 19 years old? Wasn't it just last June that Crawford was drafted out of high school?

"My stomach dropped, honestly. I didn't think I had a chance this year," Crawford said Sunday at Bright House Field. "I thought I was too young. Seeing my name on the roster, it was unreal. ... Excited to be on the roster, to learn all the stuff I can from people who could be in the bigs this year or next year."

Crawford probably can't put himself in that category. Not yet, at least. But his recent promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater and the Futures Game assignment are clear signs of how highly the Phils regard their shortstop of the future, no matter his age or experience.

"I think it's a great honor. I'm just playing my game. For them to keep moving me, it's a great challenge," said Crawford, Philadelphia's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com. "I like it, though. ... Just to see how well I can compete with 25-, 26-year-olds when I'm this young."

When Crawford was sent to Clearwater on June 15, the former first-round pick was the youngest player in the Florida State League. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he is nearly four years younger than the average player in the league.

Crawford said he wasn't expecting -- or even thinking about -- a promotion until he was summoned to Lakewood manager Greg Legg's office. He received a simple message that day.

"Just don't stop there," Crawford recalled hearing. "You have so much ability to keep doing better, so just don't stop."

But Crawford immediately noticed an upgrade in the competition. The pitchers are more experienced than in the South Atlantic League, where he thrived for 60 more games with a .295/.398/.405 batting line, 14 stolen bases and a slick glove. They throw Crawford better breaking balls here, often in fastball counts.

Crawford struck out 11 times and had only four hits in his first 27 plate appearances, and he was forced to adjust.

Since Wednesday, Crawford has had three multihit games, as many home runs as strikeouts (two of each) and the first walk-off hit of his life.

"As soon as he started to know how they pitch and how the league is treating him, he's made adjustments to the league really well. For me, that's really good, because it's happening in 10 days," Threshers manager Nelson Prada said. "He's shown that he's making good adjustments and started to hit better. If you have the ability to adjust in just four or five games, that's pretty good.

"He's 19. A year and maybe two months ago, he was playing in high school. Now, he's facing pitchers down here that don't make the Double-A club in their organization and they're pitching here. That means they're 24 or 25, maybe two years in this league and five years in the pros. And he's facing those guys really good."

Crawford still has plenty of room to improve, of course. He admits he's still trying to get comfortable at the plate. Crawford is working on getting his front foot down earlier so he has more time to recognize pitches.

As dynamic as Crawford already is defensively, he thinks he can improve his range in the field. And he knows he can put on weight so his swing packs more power and his 6-foot-2 frame holds up better over the course of a long professional season.

"He's not a small guy. He's just skinny," Prada said of the 180-pound Crawford. "I think the way he's swinging right now, the way he hits balls out in BP weighing 180, assuming he gets to 200, he's going to hit the ball out of the ballpark."

Those projections and expectations don't seem to bother Crawford. This is the same guy who joked as soon as he signed with the Phillies that he wasn't going to wait around to take Jimmy Rollins' job.

The significant age difference between him and most of his peers -- and competition -- doesn't seem to faze Crawford, either.

"It's just playing the same game," Crawford said. "You've just got to go out there and have fun. It's still a game. It's just baseball, so you've got to go out there and have fun."

While Crawford is eager to reach the Majors, he's not setting deadlines or timeframes. He'll get there "whenever my time comes," he said.

That attitude helped Crawford get to Clearwater, even if he didn't expect to get here so quickly. It helped him get to the Futures Game, even if he didn't expect to find himself among baseball's young elite so soon.

Someday, whether Crawford is expecting it or not, it might help him get to Philadelphia.

"If they call me up again, they call me up again," Crawford said. "But I'm just going to come here and work hard every day."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.