Crawford represents Phillies' future at shortstop

Crawford represents Phillies' future at shortstop

June 20, 2013, 7:00 pm
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With one word, Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever conveyed to West Coast scout Demerrius Pittman that J.P. Crawford -- a player Pittman had been monitoring since Crawford’s freshman year in high school -- was in the Phillies’ plans.

“If you guys know Marty, scouting with him, it’s kind of difficult to tell because he gives you the same look whether he thinks a guy is good or thinks he’s bad,” Pittman said Wednesday at Crawford’s introductory press conference. “He’ll put his glasses on like this (motioning to the bridge of his nose). The only way you can tell the difference is if Marty does that look and goes, '…Coaaaach.' That means he likes you. If he says nothing, then you know, 'OK I’m probably not gonna get this guy.'

“They’re taking infield-outfield [at Lakewood High in California], we’re watching [Crawford] play shortstop, he throws the ball across the diamond. And Marty just looks at me. And I’m like, ‘OK he didn’t say anything to me so what’s that look mean?’ So he gets up to bat and hits the ball in the gap for a double. And Marty looks at me and goes, '…Coaaaach.' And I'm like, ‘OK, at least I got a shot at this guy.’"

Crawford was viewed by most analysts as the top shortstop in the draft, so Wolever, Pittman and the rest of the organization was unsure of whether he’d fall to the Phillies at pick No. 16. Crawford was the Phils’ primary target all along -- not a high school outfielder as had been previously believed -- according to Wolever.

“There were a couple of surprises ahead of us in the draft this year,” Wolever said. “Had those surprises not happened, he probably wouldn’t have been here today. But they did happen, to our benefit, and things just fell into place for us.”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Crawford will report to the Gulf Coast League this week. He’ll play shortstop, and then move on to Lakewood if things go as planned. From there, it all depends on how he progresses.

The Phils look at his natural ability, tremendous instincts and pedigree -- his cousin is Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford and his father, Larry, played in the CFL -– and see a player who will one day thrive. In a playful way, the humble 18-year-old implied it wouldn’t even take that long.

“I was playing PS3, and I get a text from [Jimmy Rollins],” Crawford said. “I was like, ‘Whoa this is Jimmy Rollins texting me … is this really happening right now?’ He just said, ‘Congratulations, maybe one day you can replace me when I’m done.’ I was like ‘I wanna take your spot right now, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

Shortly after the press conference Crawford went into the Phillies' clubhouse to meet the players, many of whom almost certainly won’t occupy that space by the time Crawford makes it up. Rollins played the role of host, engaging in a lengthy conversation with him in front of cameras and reporters. Perhaps it should have been a surreal scene for an 18-year-old, but one of Crawford’s closest friends and teammates went through this same process a year ago. The Phillies’ 2012 first-round pick, pitcher Shane Watson, was a teammate of Crawford’s at Lakewood High. That’s actually how Pittman and the Phils first discovered Crawford -- as the smooth-fielding, do-it-all shortstop playing behind Watson.

“It means a lot to me, especially since [the Phillies] drafted Shane just last year,” Crawford said. “I thought, ‘What if I have the chance to get drafted to them to?’ And then a week before the draft, me and Shane were talking and we were like, ‘Dude, what if we play on the same team together?’ We’ve been playing baseball together since tee-ball, and now just to play on a pro team together … it’s a dream come true, really.”

Watson is currently at Lakewood, where he has a 5.79 ERA in 13 starts. Their paths will likely cross very soon.

“Last year when I went to watch Watson, he made every play possible, up the middle, in the hole, moving runners,” Wolever said. “He just had great instincts and feel for the game. It’s hard enough to see that in college players, and he did that as a [high school] junior. He’s very humble yet very confident. Pretty good makeup and obviously the physical skills are there to be a front-line shortstop.”

Draft notes
The Phillies have signed “eight or nine” of their picks from the first 10 rounds, Wolever said Wednesday. Sixth-rounder Jason Monda, a junior out of Washington State, will not sign, instead returning to WSU for his senior year. He “agreed, and then agreed not to agree,” Wolever said.

The Phils are high on second-round catcher Andrew Knapp’s bat.

“He’s an offensive player that just started catching about a year ago,” Wolever said of Knapp, who is already 2 for 6 with a double at Williamsport. “We think he has a chance to be a real productive offensive player. He’s got to sharpen his defensive skills. But if he does that, he’s a middle-of-the-order type offensive player, switch-hitter, with tremendous makeup.”

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