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Prospect Crawford starring at Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - A lot goes through the mind of Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford, but he insists that moving up the minor-league ladder isn't one of them.

Lakewood Blue Claws shortstop J.P. Crawford. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
Lakewood Blue Claws shortstop J.P. Crawford. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)Read more

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - A lot goes through the mind of Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford, but he insists that moving up the minor-league ladder isn't one of them.

"I don't think about moving up," Crawford said. "I come to the ballpark and play my hardest, and if I get moved up I get moved up. It doesn't matter."

The possibility of a new address is something others in the Phillies organization are thinking about as Crawford shows why he was the Phillies' first-round draft choice last year, and why he is on the verge of being considered one of the top minor-league prospects in baseball.

Selected 16th overall out of Lakewood High in California last June, Crawford enjoyed a sensational debut in the Gulf Coast League last year when he hit .345 in 39 games. He then went to low-A Lakewood for 14 games, batting .208.

The 19-year-old, one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, began this year at Lakewood and is a totally different player. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Crawford entered the weekend hitting .322. The lefthanded lead-off hitter had three home runs, 11 RBIs, and an .886 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

"He is very smooth and makes the game look easy," said a major-league scout. "He should be a very good two-way player."

Crawford is The Inquirer's No. 2-ranked prospect. The No. 4 prospect is Roman Quinn, also a shortstop, who turns 21 on May 14. Quinn played last year at Lakewood before suffering a season-ending hairline fracture in his right wrist in the last week of June. He ruptured his right Achilles tendon in offseason workouts.

Quinn has been in extended spring training and is ready to return soon, according to Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development.

Jordan admits to being cautious with Crawford and doesn't want to move him up to high-A Clearwater just yet.

He said it's not likely that Quinn and Crawford will be on the same team at this point. That means it is possible Quinn could be ticketed for Clearwater.

Either way, Jordan doesn't want to rush Crawford.

"Right now the plan is for him to be at Lakewood," Jordan said. "Now, later in the summer, depending how he does, that plan can change."

Anything is subject to change, and Jordan wants to see how Crawford handles both success and failure at this level.

"I want to see him continue tearing it up for a while," Jordan said. "We even have to see him go through slumps; that is part of the process."

Crawford said that his brief stint at Lakewood last season was highly beneficial.

"It was great because it gave me a clue of what type of pitchers I would see and what this level is all about," Crawford said.

Between last season and this one, he has achieved a real comfort level.

"He is starting to take more of a leadership role for us in the infield, and it's nice to see," said Lakewood manager Greg Legg.

An offseason weight program has made Crawford much stronger.

"Last year it was my first experience [in pro ball] and I was exhausted at the end," Crawford said. "With all I did in the offseason I have a lot of energy."

It has shown in his development, which is why he will likely be on the move well before the season ends.