The tweet that maybe saved Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford's season
Crawford has batted .292 since July 13 as he seems to reclaim his place as a key piece of the Phillies' future.
ALLENTOWN — J.P. Crawford's batting average was nearing .200 when he took out his phone on July 12 and began to compose a tweet.
The Phillies' No. 1 prospect was scuffling. Baseball America, which had ranked him a year earlier as the sixth-best prospect in all of baseball, dropped Crawford 80 spots in its midseason prospect rankings and even considered not listing him at all. Crawford, a bit disgruntled with the news, hit send.
"All it is is motivation," Crawford tweeted.
It might have been the tweet that saved Crawford's season. He has since batted .292 with an .893 OPS, as he seems to use that motivation to reclaim his place as a key piece of the Phillies' future. Crawford, who started to play third base last week, is expected to join the Phillies in September, a testament to how he turned his season around.
"Baseball America thinks they know what they're talking about," Crawford said. "I just have to go prove them wrong. I mean, I'll let my play do the talking and go from there. It lit a little fire under me to keep going. I was struggling. But I was putting the work in every day, and I knew the results were going to come. And then, I don't know, after that, it fired me up a little bit."
Baseball America had a point. Crawford batted just .229 in his first 615 triple-A at-bats, a stretch that covered his debut at that level last summer to his July tweet. John Manuel, the publication's editor, said on a Comcast SportsNet podcast that Baseball America no longer saw Crawford as an impact player. Baseball America has long been the leader in prospect coverage, and the comment quickly spread. Crawford heard it.
"Saying I'm not an impact player anymore, all of that stuff, it fired me up a little bit," Crawford said.
It is worth noting that Crawford's struggles came as he played through injuries. He played most of last season with bone chips in his left knee, which required surgery after the season. He missed 10 days with a leg injury before returning June 20. Crawford has since found his best success in two years. Perhaps it was that time away — and not comments or tweets — that proved to be the most beneficial.
"The time off gave me some time to clear my head," Crawford said. "To relax and take a deep breath."
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Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan said every player has a way to find motivation, and he would like to thank the media if that is what triggered Crawford's. Wathan managed Crawford for parts of the last two seasons, knowing the type of player Crawford could be. He was not surprised to see the prospect right himself, but he might not know for certain what allowed him to do so.
"I wouldn't be standing here talking to you guys if I knew the key to that. I'd be selling that to all 30 teams," Wathan said. "But you know, sometimes things click. I don't want to say he was playing through an injury, but he was nagging. The leg thing was nagging, and he was trying to play through it. I think maybe he was trying to do too much at times. He was a little bit passive when he got ahead in the count. Now, he's really confident, and he gets himself in hitters' counts a lot, and he's being aggressive with his swings. Instead of just trying to get a hit, he's trying to drive the ball and do some damage with balls. I think it's a combination of a bunch of things."
Wathan sat on a stool Tuesday and tossed balls to Phillies infield coordinator Doug Mansolino, who ripped grounders toward Crawford at third base. It was another pregame workout focused on preparing Crawford for what seems to be a September promotion to the majors. Crawford looked smooth at third base, using the athleticism that has made him a solid defender at shortstop.
"I think he'll be all right. He has great hands; he moves well; he's an athlete. He's taken to it. He's all in," Wathan said. "It's one of those things that, if a guy will commit to it and has the athleticism to do it, I think he'll do fine."
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The position change is temporary, simply a way to get him to the majors for the final month of the season. Crawford will likely spend some time at second base before the end of the minor-league season. Freddy Galvis, the Phillies' shortstop and longest-tenured player, aims to start every game this season, and it would be unjust to strip that from him in September as he chases a Gold Glove.
General manager Matt Klentak said the Phillies want to add versatility to Crawford and "make sure he has the ability to play and not just sit on the bench" if he arrives in September. It is similar situation to how they moved Rhys Hoskins to left field before promoting him.
Crawford said that batted balls arrive at third base "a little spicier," but everything else feels the same. He could soon find himself playing there in the majors, a thought that seemed to be out of the question before he fired off that tweet.
"I learned a lot about myself, and just, hopefully, I never have to go through something like this again, but I think it was a good experience," Crawford said. "Struggling down here rather than going up there and struggling. Finding a way to get out of it down here will help me if I have struggles up there."