Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford overcoming initial struggles at Triple A


For perhaps the first time in his professional career, J.P. Crawford is facing some real adversity at the plate. The good news is the top prospect in the Phillies' organization is also showing signs of overcoming those struggles.

Promoted nearly a month ago, Crawford got off to a slow start at Triple A Lehigh Valley, his batting average plummeting as low as .153 on June 10. Since then, however, the 21-year-old has hit in five straight games, raising his average to an even .200 in the process — which is at least a step in the right direction.

Plus, a little slump doesn't necessarily have to be a negative experience for a young player, at least as IronPigs manager Dave Brundage sees things.

"He had never gone through a slump, and it's not entirely a bad thing for it to happen in the minor leagues, to go through something like that and find out about yourself," Brundage said.

Crawford has had little trouble navigating the Phillies' farm system since being selected 16th overall in the 2013 draft, so it's not entirely surprising to learn this might be his most dismal stretch in three years. Brundage isn't certain it has anything to do with the transition to Triple A, either.

"I haven't seen J.P. prior to it," said Brundage. "I look at his numbers and I've seen he's hit at pretty much all of the levels.

"We haven't seen the full package yet. We've had glimpses of it. He's had a couple of three-hit games. He had one in Pawtucket and one here, so it's nice to see what everyone else has been talking about."

Crawford's recent run is highlighted by a 3-for-3 performance in a 7-5 victory on Wednesday in which the shortstop had two doubles, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored. It's games like those that instill confidence his bat will continue to come around.

"There's a lot of things you go through, and you fight through it," Brundage continued. "Some days it just takes one at-bat for it to click, and (Wednesday) night it appeared it clicked pretty good."

Crawford is still finding his way at Lehigh. After all, he has just four extra-base hits in 24 games. The next day after going 3 for 3, he was 1 for 4, his lone hit coming on a weak flare he fisted into the opposite field.

Then again, Crawford continues to demonstrate a patient approach at the plate, with 14 walks to 16 strikeouts — a good sign. Maybe best of all, he's been flawless at shortstop, committing no errors thus far, which was arguably his greatest shortcoming on his way through the system.

"He's scuffling here, and I'm certainly proud of him that he's not taking his bat to his defense, because he's been outstanding defensively," Brundage said. "Very fundamentally sound, very comfortable."

Crawford was batting .265 with a .787 OPS at Double A Reading prior to his call-up. Last season, he hit .265 with a .761 OPS with the Fightins, so it's difficult to suggest he wasn't ready to make the move.

Maybe it's only a slump. Maybe he's still getting a feel for the next level. Regardless, numbers aside, Crawford remains an encouraging prospect for the Phillies. Assuming trends both short- and long-term continue, he'll likely be knocking on the door of the big leagues in no time.

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