The Philadelphia Phillies own one of the top prospects in baseball heading into the 2017 season, but should you?
Shortstops certainly are the flavor of the month now. It seems like only yesterday we were debating Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson, but now we’re fast forwarded a year, the long wait for another name might finally be over.
We’ve been waiting a lifetime for J.P. Crawford to be called up, and chances are, it still won’t happen right away. Rest assured this should be the year the Phillies’ number one guy makes his debut, and since he now ranks as MLB Pipeline’s number two prospect, the excitement is crazy high.
Fantasy owners are no doubt well acquainted with Crawford. We’ve seen times where he is owned in quite a high percentage of leagues, only to disappoint owners with abysmal performances in AAA. Right now, Crawford is owned in a low 4% of leagues, but even after a 2016 season that has left some doubt, there is still room for optimism if you’re looking to stash another prospect.
The struggles that Crawford has had are no doubt very real and a cause for concern for any potential owner. There have been countless slumps during his time with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and even a time where he was batting well under a .200 AVG in 2015.
For a top prospect with so much power, Crawford has had times where he’s played pretty unconvincingly and left the Phillies with no other option but to keep him in the minors as a work in progress.
Of course, what has happened in the past does need to stay in the past, especially if you’re seriously considering Crawford ahead of this season. The biggest improvement in Crawford’s game has come off the field, where he has taken the time to listen to coaches and not try and swing for the fences during every at bat.
In 2016, Crawford’s power was definitely put to better use, where he hit 7HR’s and 43 RBI’s during 472 at-bat’s. Those numbers are enticing and should transition well into the Majors after time. Where Crawford has made the best improvement though is in plate discipline, walking a career high 72 times – a statistic you just know the Phillies front office loves.
Power, power, power is the name of Crawford’s offensive game for sure. What has let him down in the past is his struggles against left-handed pitching. He has since slowed down his approach at the plate and trying to hit the ball hard up the middle instead of over the wall. As a result, Crawford has seen much better numbers.
Crawford’s fluent lefty swing should come in handy towards the middle of the Phillies’ lineup, too. It lends itself to some pretty favorable numbers considering how generous the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park are, leaving owners with only one real flaw left to pick on offensively.
The only part of Crawford’s game that owners might have trouble looking past is the small amount of steals Crawford is likely to rack up. He is an average baserunner with slowish speed, having stolen only 12 bases all of last year. Any player, let alone a shortstop that can steal, remains one of the most valuable commodities in all of fantasy baseball land – so this is the only thing that takes away from Crawford’s potential in comparison to a guy like Trea Turner or Yankees’ prospect Gleyber Torres.
Aside from steals, though, if there’s anything that should convince you to add Crawford from the waiver wire or draft him ahead of this season, it’s this: he will finally have a legitimate shot at the Majors this year.
Phillies fans have been spoiled at shortstop for years thanks to guys like Jimmy Rollins. Now, they’re left in the dark, scrambling after one of the teams’ poorest offensive performances in years, even if Freddy Galvis miraculously hit 20HR’s last season.
When Crawford does get the chance, he may look like a better baseball player than a “fantasy baseball” player to begin with. Defensively, he has the arm and the athleticism to become one of the all-time greats, and hey, if Galvis can get lucky and produce those kind of numbers, why can’t the top prospect in baseball?
In four words, hold on to Crawford.
The transition to the Majors may look bumpy at first, but it’s almost refreshing to see a well-rounded defensive player with a few offensive kinks come into the league mature and ready, rather than the other way around.
As an owner, if you haven’t managed to get your hands on Turner or Swanson yet, Crawford is the next best thing worth waiting for.