CLEARWATER, Fla. - J.P. Crawford was taking batting practice this winter near his home in California when a friend told him through the cage that Jimmy Rollins had been traded. The departure of the longest-tenured shortstop in Phillies history opened a clearer path for the team's shortstop of the future.
"I was like 'Hmm. Good place to be in,' " Crawford said Sunday morning before the first full-squad workout for minor-league players.
Baseball America ranks Crawford as the Phillies' top prospect and the 14th-best in all of baseball. The 20-year-old said he does not have a timetable for when he expects to be in the major leagues.
"Whenever it happens, it's going to happen," Crawford said. "I'm not trying to rush it or try to do anything different."
Crawford played 123 games last season between low-single-A Lakewood and high-A Clearwater. He hit a combined .285 with a .375 on-base percentage. Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, expects Crawford to start the season at Clearwater or double-A Reading.
"He's going to play in the big leagues. He knows it. We just have to get him ready," Jordan said. "We talked about that this morning in our meeting: Concentrate on getting better as a player. Take your eye off the prize."
Crawford rented a house with friends this offseason in his hometown of Lakewood, Calif. He worked out with Minnesota Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks and Phillies shortstop prospect Chase d'Arnaud.
He focused his time on his defense after registering 29 errors last season. Chris Truby, the Phillies' minor-league infield coordinator, outlined an offseason plan for Crawford. The Phillies saw Crawford having difficulty fielding ground balls with his backhand. Jordan said the shortstop "followed through" with the plan.
"It wasn't that he couldn't do it, he just wasn't confident in going to his backhand," Jordan said. "He made a lot of errors when he was trying to circle the ball and catch it vs. just setting up. He has plenty of arm to make that long throw."
Nola could rise
Aaron Nola, last year's first-round pick, will "more than likely" start the season in double-A Reading, Jordan said. The 21-year-old righthander ended last season at Reading. He went 2-0 in five starts with a 2.32 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 24 innings.
Nola played three seasons at LSU, which should allow him to rise quickly through the Phillies system.
"College matured me more. It made me a little more ready," Nola said. "I know I can pitch at higher levels because in college I've faced guys that are in the minor leagues. I know I can compete with those guys."