In his newest Top 100 Prospect Rankings for ESPN, Keith Law has ranked J.P. Crawford 7th among all minor leaguers. Here’s what he had to say about Crawford.
In a dismal 2014 for Phillies fans, the rapid emergence of Crawford as the team’s shortstop of the future was one of the only bright spots, and allowed the Phils to trade Jimmy Rollins for two pitching prospects after the season. The 16th pick in the 2013 draft showed he was far more advanced as a hitter than even I expected — I ranked him 46th last January — while playing plus defense at shortstop and impressing scouts with how complete his game was at age 19.
Crawford’s defense wasn’t a real question coming out of high school, as he had quick feet (and is a plus runner) with a strong arm and good actions both on the dirt and around the bag. He’ll need more work on plays going into the hole, but I see zero reason he can’t become adept at that play in time. At the plate, his hands can load a little deep, but he accelerates them so quickly that he can cover almost anything except perhaps hard stuff inside. His aptitude and ability to make adjustments has also been above anything the Phillies could have hoped for. Their main goal for him this offseason was to help him continue to fill out his frame, which might sneak him up to fringy power, 10-12 homers a year, and should help him be durable enough to take the position 150 times a year. Rollins’ departure was a tough emotional blow for many longtime Phillies’ fans, but it’ll be a lot easier once Crawford arrives and brings a similar mix of skills to Citizens Bank Park.
Crawford is certainly one of the lone bright spots and will be this year, too. But let’s not rush him. He just turned 20 this month and could be at least a year away, no matter what his stats say this season. The future is bright, and that’s all that matters in this case.
Aaron Nola finds his way onto the list as well, coming in at 57. Nola looked to be on a fast-track to the majors, and that could happen as soon as this year, although, there’s no hurry. Nola topped out at AA-Reading last season, and there’s talk he could make the major league roster with a solid showing in spring training, although it’s more likely he stays at AA or heads to AAA-Lehigh Valley.
Here’s Law’s take on kid the Phillies took 7th overall in last years draft.
Nola was the most advanced college arm in the 2014 draft, at least in terms of readiness for the big leagues, with three years of success in the SEC behind him. Nola has grade-70 command of his 91-94 mph fastball, with very good life on the pitch, locating it where he wants to either side of the plate and showing little fear when working with it. He pairs it with an above-average slider at 79-82 that he just needs to work to stay on top of and an above-average changeup, which is very difficult for left-handed hitters to pick up out of his hand at 83-85 with some tailing life. Nola works from a low, three-quarter slot, and his arm action is somewhere between unorthodox and bizarre; he has a short stride and appears to be hypermobile given how far back he can rotate his pitching elbow and forearm, but he finishes well out front and seems to have no problem repeating the delivery.
His upside is that of an above-average starter — maybe a quality No. 3 in a good rotation, not an ace or a No. 2 — but his floor is also quite high as long as he remains healthy. I believe he could make the Phillies’ rotation in April on merit, not just on team need.
While Nola will not be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, they all can’t be. If he becomes a no.3, the Phillies will certainly take it.
A name missing from Law’s list is Maikel Franco. Last year, Law had him ranked 63rd in his Top 100. After a somewhat of a disappointing season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Law has removed him altogether in 2015.