Currently ranking third in the Gulf Coast League in batting with a .372 average, 18-year-old J.P. Crawford is proving that he was certainly ready for professional baseball when the Phillies selected him with their 1st round pick (16th overall) last month.
In 13 minor league games thus far, the lefty batting shortstop from California has also drilled two doubles, a triple and scored seven runs while swiping four bags in seven chances.
Crawford posted great numbers at Lakewood High School, batting .432 in 25 games during his senior season this year and is the all-time leader in hits and runs scored at a school that also produced former Phillies 1st round draft pick Travis d’Arnaud. Additionally, another Lakewood High product, Crawford’s teammate from tee ball through their teens Shane Watson, who is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury in Florida, was taken in the 1st round by the Phillies last year.
With strong defensive skills to go along with his offense, Crawford, the cousin of big leaguer Carl Crawford, is highly touted and is a very exciting prospect.
This week, J.P. took some time to chat on the phone from Clearwater. Among the topics of discussion were his transition to the pros, his draft experience, a visit to Philadelphia to sign his contract and much more. Read ahead for that full interview.
– J.P., Take me through your draft experience. I wanted to get your thoughts on the whole process and how did you celebrate once you were drafted?
Before, during the school year, that was the only thing I was looking forward to. It was super fast too, in a way. When we got to New York, time flew by and all of a sudden we were in the room. When they called my name it was unbelievable. I had never had an experience like that. And after, we didn’t really do anything. It was pretty late.
– For that trip to the draft, who was there with you? Was it a lot of family? Were there friends there along with you?
My whole family went and then my aunt and my grandpa. My best friend and his family went there too.
My parents were the only ones right there with me. Everyone else was out there in the (studio’s) outfield and, like, in the stands area.
– After the draft, a week or two goes by, you finished up with school and then you took the trip across the country to Philadelphia to sign your first pro contract. What were your impressions of Philadelphia, whether it was the team, the area, the fans?
They made me feel right at home. All the pro people, coming into the clubhouse, I talked to everybody like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and they’re good people. They made me feel really comfortable. And I know all the fans are, like, die hard baseball fans, so I like that too.
– I know you’re pretty tight with last year’s top Phils draft pick Shane Watson, as you guys go back to youth ball. Did Shane give you any advice between the time you were drafted and when you signed that contract?
Yeah, he was telling me stuff, just the standard stuff, like don’t say anything dumb on the social media, ’cause that can hurt you. He just said to get ready for the minor leagues, ’cause it’s a grind.
– So, now speaking of that, after last week I know you were leading the Gulf Coast League in batting and the transition to the pros seems to have come easily for you thus far. Has going from the high school game to the minor leagues been what you expected, maybe a little bit of an easier transition that you expected?
I mean, I thought it was going to be a much harder transition, but I am feeling comfortable with my teammates and stuff and I’ve just been having fun lately. That’s the big key.
– I know upon breaking into the pro ranks the coaches can be really big in helping guys to adjust. How helpful have the coaches been in helping you adapt to everything?
They’ve been really helpful. If I have any questions, they know the game, they’ve all played before. They know what they’re doing. They all know what they’re talking about, so I never hesitate to go to them.
– Has anybody been more of a help than others for you, as you’ve transitioned into the new professional side of this game? Whether it’s a coach, a rehabbing player, or Shane…is there anyone that’s made a really good impact on you to help you?
Yeah, Shane’s with me right now, in my room actually! And then Jiwan James, he was in here rehabbing a little bit ago and he’s been really good, talking to me and helping me with stuff.
– What are your thoughts on the life, as a pro, away from the game….the schedule, the grind of it all? What can you tell me about the overall life?
The life takes some getting used to. You play every day and you’re out there and you’re just all tired. And you’ve just got to get used to it, that’s about it. It’s more mental than anything.
– If you were going to scout yourself, what type of evaluation would you give?
I would say that I’m a good defender and I run well and I can swing a little bit too. (I) just hit line drives, gap to gap. And I play hard every inning.
– I don ‘t know if you realize this, but you were taken with the Phillies’ highest draft pick in more than 10 years. When you’re a high pick, with high expectations and people might describe you as a potential fast-track type prospect, how would you feel about that?
That’s just more motivation for me just to prove it to them. I’m worth their first pick, so I’ve got to work my way up there.