Crawford got into baseball at five years old, partly because of his sister, Elizac, who is a softball star and played at California State University at Fullerton. So let’s just say baseball runs in the family. He also has parents who support him tremendously throughout the years, but also pushed him.
”I got more into baseball after my sister’s success and my dad kept pushing me, always trying to help me improve,” J.P. has also been able to grow up and play baseball year round.
J.P. is a distant cousin of big leaguer Carl Crawford. His father played football at Iowa State and in the Canadian Football League.
J.P. played for legendary Lakewood High School (CA), which has produced talents such as Travis D’Arnaud and Shane Watson (supplementary first round pick chosen by the Phillies in 2012), the latter whom Crawford grew up with.
"Shane Watson is like my brother. We played tee-ball together and have been playing ever since then," Crawford said.
In 2013, his senior year in high school, Crawford committed to Southern Cal.
June 2013: The Phillies chose Crawford with their #1 pick in the draft (16th overall), out of Lakewood High School in Lakewood, California.
When the MLB Network interviewed J.P. right after the Phillies selected him, he said that he hopes to learn as much as he possibly can from Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, then one day take his job. Then, Crawford broke out an ear-to-ear grin.
"It means a lot, especially coming from Jimmy Rollins down to me," Crawford said on MLB Network, asked about the Phillies drafting him. "Hopefully I can learn something from him and take his place."
And on June 18, 2013: Crawford signed with the Phillies, for a bonus worth $2,299,300. Demerius Pittman is the scout who signed J.P.
In 2013, J.P. led the Gulf Coast League in both batting (.345) and on-base percentage (.443), while ranking fifth in slugging (.465)
In 2014, Crawford won the 2014 Paul Owens Award as the best player in Philadelphia's farm system.
In 2014, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Crawford as the 3rd-best prospect in the Phillies organization. They had him as the #1 prospect in the Phillies farm system for four years in a row -- 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The Phillies chose Crawford to play in the 2015 Futures Game.
- The only boy in the house would watch baseball games on TV for hours on end. But at the same time, he could hardly stand still.
"He was always pitching into the sofa or shooting (hoops)," Beth Crawford said.
The middle child and only son of Beth, a former college volleyball player, and Larry Crawford, a former Canadian Football League All-Star, John Paul Crawford, more widely known as "J.P.", was in love with baseball at first sight.
When the family once made the short drive to the old batting cages by Long Beach Airport, so his older sister, Eliza, could get some practice swings in, they couldn't keep 3-year-old J.P. out of the cage. Even though the bats were bigger than the kid who didn't meet the age requirement, the employees couldn't say no to the boy who began connecting with almost every one of the machine's pitches.
Around that same time, Eliza, a future infielder at Cal State-Fullerton, began playing on her first youth league team.
"He was too young to play, like two or three years old, he would just cry and cry and say, 'I'm never going to be old enough to be on a team,'" Beth Crawford said. "He was just so ready to play."
Perhaps as important as any of Crawford's tools as a budding professional athlete is his confidence. The Southern California kid can come off sounding brash when you get him talking about personal and team goals. Almost Jimmy Rollins-like.
"You have to (in order) to succeed in this game," Crawford said. "People always call me cocky, but I just call myself confident. You have to believe in yourself, you have to know you're going to do something. That's a big part of it -- you have to know that you're going to do something well. Then you have to do it right."
It also helps to have the talent to walk the walk.
On July 11, 2005 at Comerica Park in Detroit, a day before the All-Star Game, a 10-year-old Crawford advanced to the finals in his age group of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run National Finals competition. A product of MLB's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., Crawford wasn't an unknown freshman when he arrived at Lakewood High School in the fall of 2009.
"The other coaches saw him more than I did in the Pony League," Lakewood head coach Spud O'Neil said. "I didn't know how special he was until the first day, and he was special."
Crawford became the first freshman not only to make Lakewood High School's varsity team from the outset of the season, but as a starter, too. The 15-year-old Crawford was so strong defensively at shortstop that O'Neil moved three-year starter Jeff Yamaguchi, the league's MVP who would go on to play at Long Beach State, over to first base to accommodate his freshman phenom.
"Let's put it this way, he was 6-2 and skinny as a rail, but, God, he could play," said O'Neil, Lakewood's coach since 1984. "He was a very, very good defensive player. And that's what we always talk about here: defense first. We had him eighth and ninth (in the lineup) and then real soon he was the leadoff guy. He was just so fast and athletic."
Crawford hit .404 as a freshman, fourth highest on his team. He'd hit over .450 in both his junior and senior seasons, leading his team. Outside of high school games, Crawford was also selected to play for the Urban Youth Academy's Team USA, and in a Labor Day tournament against Japan at the beginning of his sophomore year, he led that team in hitting, too.
"He was a great ballplayer - the best we've ever had," O'Neil said.
Some of Lakewood's alums include Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants, catcher and former Phillies draft pick Travis d'Arnaud, and former Major Leaguers Mike Carp, Chris Gomez, Damion Easley, and Craig Grebeck.
"That's a good compliment," said Utley, who played in the same league while at Polytechnic High in Long Beach in the 1990s. "For that area, in Southern California, where guys play all year around."
Having coached in Southern California for more than three decades, coach O'Neil has been used to seeing scouts take over the seating and standing area behind the Lancers batting cage for games. He'll also see them sitting in their cars along Lomina Avenue beyond the leftfield fence.
"Just watching us practice," O'Neil said. "They're watching how they act on the field. Are they goofing around? We encourage them to have fun, but some guys are just donkeys. And we've had some donkeys. And some that were pretty good."
J.P. Crawford does not fall into the donkey category. While some kids are glued to their cellphone screens, for Crawford "it was all baseball."
"His family did a good job with him," O'Neil said.
Just by scanning the future Phillies shortstop's Twitter feed, you can see how much family means to Crawford. His parents make cross-country trips to watch him play a few times a year, his longtime girlfriend is always by his side, his sisters inspire him to reach his goals. He even has a trio of Siberian huskies who he treats like kids, or, at the very least, his own personal wolf pack.
You can sense the strong family unit inside their Lakewood home. And all you have to do is glance at the basketball goal in the driveway to get a sense of where sports fits in to the Crawford family dynamic."We used to have a lot of battles," J.P. Crawford said. "My mom, she's out there to kill you. And I'd destroy (my dad) now, but back in the day he'd beat me good."
"Senior year," the elder Crawford said of when he couldn't take down his son in a one-on-one game anymore. "It was tough to give in."The most competitive member of the family?
"My mom, definitely her," J.P. Crawford said. "She goes all out to do anything." (Ryan Lawrence / Daily News Staff Writer - 8/18/15)
Back in 2000, the Phillies brought a 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins to camp. Incumbent shortstop Desi Relaford looked across the clubhouse at Rollins and said he needed to pick it up because “that cat can play.” Rollins reached the Majors that September, starting a 14-year run at shortstop.
Crawford played the 2016 season at age 21.
After the Phillies improved their stock of prospects through trades, the last thing they want to do is rush a player.
“We’re in a position to make sure players get the at-bats or innings we think they need before we move them,” farm director Joe Jordan said. “We hopefully have the volume of players and prospects that we can put them on a schedule, and if they change that schedule, that’s good.”
MLB debut (Sept. 5, 2017): "It was a dream come true," J.P. said following a 9-1 victory over the Mets, which included his first hit -- a bloop single to center field in the fifth inning. "Stepping onto the field, looking around, I thought to myself, 'Man, I'm really here.' I've been working on it for so long. Just to finally live the dream."
|Birth City:||Long Beach, CA|
|Draft:||Phillies #1 - 2013 - Out of high school (CA)|
Crawford is an impact player. He hits the ball from gap-to-gap with a loose, fluid and compact lefthanded swing with good bat speed. He should hit for a high average, and some power. He gets a present 60 for his hitting grade (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and is developing 45 power, which will project to 10-15 homers per season when he matures..
"I think his bat will be his best tool—both power and average,” Clearwater manager Nelson Prada said. “The way he approaches his job at the plate is really impressive.”
When J.P. stays back and uses leverage, he has some loft and projects to hit some home runs, improving his power numbers every year. (Spring, 2017)
J.P. has a great eye at the plate, getting on base a lot -- he's a disciplined, selective lefthanded hitter. He has plus-plus plate discipline and good hand-eye coordination. He recognizes offspeed pitches. He has a good feel for the game. He walks as much, or even more than he strikes out. And that impressive patience is special.
It was his patience at the plate that got him drafted. He's had that since his amateur years. And now, he recognizes offspeed pitches, rarely expanding the strike zone.
"Having the pressure on the pitcher and not on yourself is a big key," said Crawford. "Being able to see the ball and be comfortable hitting with two strikes. A lot of people start pressing when they get to two strikes, but I feel comfortable hitting with two strikes. That's a big key too."
Crawford is no finished product. He has some hitting mechanics to smooth out, with a pull-oriented setup that more experienced pitchers can exploit.
He sets up with his hands high, and with long arms he has a bit of a loop in his swing, but he sprays line drives across the field and works the count to get on base. He’s mostly a doubles threat right now, but once he gets stronger he has the frame to grow into at least fringe-average power.
Crawford's lefthanded stroke can get to big and he can become pull-happy. (Spring, 2015)
J.P. walks about the same amount of time as he strikes out! He has an advanced two-strike approach. He is so patient and knows his strike zone so well.
Evaluators notice that he does a superb job staying inside the ball with his compact lefty swing.
J.P. has above-average contact skills, especially when he keeps his hands inside the ball.
“J.P. controls the strike zone well, particularly for someone who has typically been one of the youngest players in his league,” Phillies GM Matt Klentak said during the 2016 season. “His entire performance has gotten more consistent.”
He has slowed his hands when fielding and transferring the ball, and that has made him more consistent. In spring training, Crawford worked on that fundamental with bench coach Larry Bowa.
"He's a big-time player,” Bowa said. “He’s got some swagger, but not in a bad way.”
2016 Season: Crawford’s hitting mechanics got a little out of whack in 2016, as some scouts believed a thumb injury from last fall carried over into 2016. His swing got loopier and he wasn’t using his top hand enough.
His power potential may never live up to the expectations thrown on him coming out of high school as he does have an opposite-field first approach, but he was a 21-year-old in Triple-A, so he’s still ahead of schedule developmentally. J.P. draws plenty of walks and doesn’t strike out thanks to an excellent understanding of the strike zone. That gives him a solid base to build on offensively.
- 2017 Season: J.P. got into a bad habit of pulling off the ball, causing his hips to fly open.
That created a longer swing path, left him vulnerable to pitches on the outer third and cut into his ability to drive the ball. Crawford adjusted in the second half by setting up his hands closer to his body and keeping his lower half into his swing better.
The changes improved his swing efficiency and helped him stay through the ball better. Crawford’s offensive game is still centered around hitting line drives, but he showed the potential for 15-plus home runs. (Matt Eddy - BA Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2018)
J.P. has plenty of range and arm strength and range -- especially to his left -- to stay at shortstop. He also does a real good job of charging the ball. He gets a very impressive 60 grade for his fielding and has a 60 arm.
"Crawford makes the game look easy both ways," one scout said "He has a great contact approach with coming power. And he's very relaxed and poised on defense. All the tools are there."
Crawford is a quick-twitch athlete. He moves around smoothly and effortlessly with good feet and quick hands. He's got an excellent first step quickness and above-average instincts for the game. He reads the ball off the bat very well.
He doesn’t have blazing speed, but in the field, his combination of body control, athleticism, smooth actions and solid instincts makes him a smooth-fielding plus defender. (April, 2017)
J.P. has a loose, free arm and makes strong throws. We think he has a 60 arm along with 60 fielding ability (above-average on the 20-80 scouting scale). He is a above-average defensively, earning a present 60 and future 65 grade -- very impressive. His arm plays even better than above-average because his throws are so accurate; so some scouts give his arm a 65 or even a 70 (for that combo of strength and controlled accuracy).
He also has quick hands on the exchange.
In 2014, Crawford would rush at times defensively, trying to make too many plays that can't be made. Time and experience should mature J.P., who has average-to-plus tools all across the board.
Crawford has a knack for the game. He has solid baseball instincts and an impressive internal clock.
An excellent athlete, J.P. projects as a quality shortstop across the board, though he still has improvements to make on defense, as evidenced by 29 errors and .948 fielding percentage during the 2014 season.
But improve he did, honing his backhand skills in 2015. While he did make 21 errors, with a .954 fielding percentage, J.P. made most of those errors from being too quick on the transfer of ball to the throwing hand. And that is an easy fix.
Crawford is a future all-star shortstop. He is two things: reliable and consistent.
Now, he's endeavoring to bring the impressively patient approach he has at the plate, to the field with him. He has a penchant for making the impossible look routine at times, it's often the routine that trips him up. So he has to learn to respect every ground ball. He is slowing things down to make the proper adjustments.
"[Emmanuel] Burris, Freddy Galvis and [Andres] Blanco, they've helped me out tremendously," said Crawford. "It's helped me slow things down, making sure my feet are under me when I take ground balls, not trying to rush things." (Craig Forde - MiLB.com - 5/10/2016)
Late in the 2016 season, scouts noticed mechanical adjustments he needs to make. In particular, Crawford has a tendency to open his hips early, step in the bucket, and pull off the ball. If he can make the necessary fixes, he can be an above-average hitter with near-average power and average speed. (Spring, 2017)
J.P. is a true shortstop with good athleticism and range, quick hands, a smooth transfer and an accurate, above-average arm. He shifted to third base in August 2017 to get accustomed to the position with Freddy Galvis at shortstop in Philadelphia.
- 2017: Crawford was named the best defensive shortstop in Minor League Baseball by MLB Pipeline.
J.P. has decent speed that shows up both in the field and on the bases.
Crawford is an intelligent baserunner. He is not that fast, rating an average 50 grade.
J.P. is below-average out of the box, but uses long strides to lick it up to average underway.Multiple evaluators have noted that Crawford is a duck-footed, heel-toe style runner, which could partly contribute to his slow times to first base. He was nevertheless aggressive, if not efficient, in stealing 24 bases in 38 attempts during the 2014 season.
April 4-May 6, 2015: Crawford began the season on the D.L. with an oblique strain.
November 2015: J.P. tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. It was in a splint for about a month. Crawford injured it on a tag play.
Chase Utley and Cesar Hernandez both suffered similar injuries at the big league level in recent seasons and required surgery. Crawford’s injury is not nearly as serious, and surgery was not required.
“It’s a very slight tear, so slight they had to read the MRI three times to find it,” Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He will be immobilized for three to four weeks and 100 percent healthy well before for spring training.”
Sept 14, 2016: Crawford underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove a "loose body." The team said Crawford will rest for the next four weeks but will otherwise have a normal offseason. He is expected to be ready to play by Spring Training. (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Sept 16, 2016)
- June 11-20, 2017: Crawford took nine days off to rest a nagging groin strain and take a mental break, and when he returned he looked like a different player. Crawford finished the season on a tear, batting .280/.381/.522 with 13 home runs in his final 71 games.