With the Phillies stumbling lately, the calls have become more and aggressive to see some of the Lehigh Valley kids up in Philadelphia. But should they be? For the next couple of weeks we’ll discuss some of the players who fans are calling for the most and try to determine whether they belong in the majors or not, and when they might get called up:
Stats: .150/.273/.177, 0 HRs, 7 RBI, .450 OPS, 19 BBs, 26 K. If it weren’t for the strikeout-to-walk ratio that isn’t too far off his career numbers, this would be a big, big, BIG issue right now. As it is, it’s merely a big, big issue.
Major league service time: None. This might have been a problem if Crawford came out and blew the doors off Coca-Cola Park in Allentown. Now it’s starting to be perfectly acceptable to wonder if it will be an issue next year when he still hasn’t reached the majors and actually did blow the doors off triple-A pitching (finally).
Major league role: When he’s ready to take it, shortstop is his. Quite surprisingly, Freddy Galvis has made the Phillies’ decision tougher by playing Gold Glove-worthy defense and showing some pop, as, believe it or not, he’s on pace to knock in 100 runs this year. Regardless of your take on the value of an RBI, has a Phillies shortstop ever knocked in 100? Jimmy didn’t. But Galvis just doesn’t do much else, doesn’t seem to have a clue at the plate sometimes, obviously doesn’t like to take a walk (.274 OBP last year) and could be better suited either in a utility role or just on a whole new team. But that’s another story for another day.
As for Crawford, his raw talent and potential make him the easy choice to be the shortstop of the future for the Phillies. But, you guys, his start to 2017.
Is he ready?: Let’s set the record straight right now: Just because a player comes with first-round-pick pedigree and at some point was considered a top-10-ranked prospect in all of baseball, that does not mean that player is automatically ready for the major leagues. It’s the equivalent of using the argument, “Well he’s supposed to be that good, so he should be that good!” … it doesn’t work that way.
With that out of the way, you can fall back on the age-old argument of, “Numbers don’t always tell the whole story” if you’re looking for a way to get Crawford to the majors. And maybe you can kinda sorta use that argument because there isn’t as much trouble in his peripheral stats as you might expect. While his strikeout rate has spiked to 19.5 percent this year — which would be a career high, by far, his walk rate is at 14.3 percent, higher than his career average. Normally, when you see a player struggle but keep the walk and strikeout rates mostly in check, there isn’t much reason for alarm. His ground ball rate, after dropping every year since 2014, is starting to go back up to levels when he was playing much better, per Fangraphs. His line-drive rate is too.
But Crawford’s statistics have been so bad for an extended period of time this year that there is reason for worry. In a way, it could be a blessing. After years of not producing the kinds of numbers that are in line with other top-10-type prospects, and yet still being bestowed with the credit of being one of those top prospects, maybe this is Crawford’s awakening moment, where he either takes a turn toward stardom or joins Domonic Brown in the stockpile of (relatively) failed Phillies prospects. Right now? He’s not ready for the major leagues and just cannot be brought out of triple-A until he is.
Skinny: People are acting as if this is something new with Crawford. But go ahead, point to a superstar minor-league stop for him. The month he spent in Clearwater in 2015 (.392/489/.443)? The two months at rookie league in 2013? Other than those, there really isn’t that much that stands out. Which is fine, a lot of the minor league scouting is based on projectability, and scouts have always thought Crawford projects to a 20 HR/20 steal/40 double type of player with a .390 on-base percentage. Those aren’t exactly superstar numbers, they’re more like “poor-man’s Bobby Abreu” numbers, yet Crawford’s always been saddled with the label of “superstar potential.” And those numbers are at the top end of his projections. So I’ve always been puzzled as to his expectations.
Prediction: There is probably no point where the Phillies just say, “Eh, whatever,” and promote him. He’s going to have to show something, anything, to get himself to Philly, and will most likely have to sustain it over a few months. At this point, it certainly doesn’t look like he’ll see Philly in 2017, but those who think he’ll be left unprotected from the 40-man after the 2017 season are just plain nuts.