MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

What to expect from Phils' Crawford in big leagues

What to expect from Phils' Crawford in big leagues

There were 15 players taken in the first round of the 2013 Draft ahead of J.P. Crawford -- eight college players and seven from the high school ranks. Seven of them have reached the big leagues, including a pair of prepsters who reached the highest level this season. The 22-year-old Crawford, who is being called up to the Phillies on Tuesday, will become the third high schooler from the class to make his Major League debut.

While getting to Philadelphia at such a young age puts Crawford, ranked No. 4 on the Phillies' Top 30 Prospects list, way ahead of the curve, it hasn't always been an easy journey for the talented shortstop. But he is arriving on a high note, riding a seven-game hitting streak with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

That recent success put an exclamation point on a huge second-half turnaround for Crawford, ranked No. 60 overall. The cousin of former big leaguer Carl Crawford hit just .211/.328/.330 in the first half of the International League season, with some minor injuries and his youth/inability to adjust to upper-level pitching leading to a prolonged slump.

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Crawford has never really put up huge numbers in the Minors, but he has typically at least held his own while being extremely young for every level. Even in 2017, in a return to Lehigh Valley (he played 87 games there in 2016), he was still more than 4 1/2 years younger than the average hitter in the league. But even so, a first-half OPS of .658 for a prospect supposedly knocking on the big league door and who was No. 7 on MLBPipeline.com's preseason Top 100 list was disappointing. Crawford is now at No. 60 as a result of a late July re-rank.

To his credit, Crawford hit the reset switch in the second half, finishing with a .287/.385/.513 mark after the All-Star break, an OPS improvement of 240 points. While never projected to be a huge power guy, there was always the thought there was some more in there, and he did start to unlock that as he settled in, with nine homers and 23 total extra-base hits in the second half. Crawford's 15 homers for the season represent a career high.

Throughout his climb up the organizational ladder, the offensive tool that has stood out the most for Crawford has been his plate discipline. Even during his first-half struggles, he continued to draw walks. Crawford's 79 walks gave him a 14.2 percent walk rate, right in line with his 13.1 percent career ratio. His strikeouts did uptick in 2017, but not to an alarming level. Crawford's advanced approach at the plate should certainly serve him well as he works to adjust to Major League pitching, and there's no doubt that his struggles will help him do just that.

Offensive profile aside, Crawford's best tool has always been his defense. There is no question he is a shortstop long-term, so don't take the fact that he started seeing time at third and second, and will continue to do so in Philadelphia, as a sign of an organizational shift in belief in his glove work. The positional flexibility was added mostly because they were preparing to call Crawford up and wanted to be able to get him into the lineup on a regular basis.

Crawford is going to play quite a bit in the season's final month. Otherwise, the Phillies probably would have left him down in Triple-A and let him compete in the IL playoffs instead. In deference to Freddy Galvis and the solid season he's having, the time just won't be primarily at the premium position that Crawford hopes to man for a long time to come. Expect to see him at third more often than not, with some second mixed in and perhaps a little time spelling Galvis at short.

Long-term, it should be Galvis who will have to find another home, with Crawford eventually developing into a Gold Glove-caliber defender and joining other young shortstops who have recently reached the National League East in Dansby Swanson and Amed Rosario. For now, don't demand too much from Crawford. Enjoy watching him settle in and know that he's already shown the ability to deal with adversity and adjust accordingly.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.