Phillies draft SS J.P. Crawford 16th overall

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Phillies draft SS J.P. Crawford 16th overall

Sometimes the player a team wants most ends up being the one the scouts didn’t go to see.

At least that’s the way it worked out with the Phillies and their first-round pick, J.P. Crawford (No. 16 overall selection), in the 2013 MLB draft on Thursday.

The Phillies first got turned on to the lean and lanky shortstop from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Calif., a suburb located between Los Angeles and Anaheim, when they went to see a pitcher, Shane Watson.

The Phillies took Watson, a right-handed pitcher now at Single A Lakewood, with their first-round pick last year. But in scouting and signing Watson, the Phillies learned all about Crawford.

Call it a two-for-one.

“I thought he was one of the best players we saw last year when we saw Shane Watson play,” said Marti Wolever, the Phillies’ assistant general manager. “He was outstanding then and it was a matter of how things fell in front of us and things worked out well.

“He’s a little bit of an advanced defensive player at shortstop. Offensively, he’s a little ahead of the game, too. It’s probably going to be three or four years until he’s knocking at the door here in Philadelphia.”

Crawford and Watson have been friends since they were toddlers. During MLB Network’s telecast of the draft, Crawford said that he and Watson were on the same T-ball team as five-year olds. Perhaps if it works out right, Crawford and Watson can be teammates from age five through grade school, high school, the minors and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies have had a lot of success in drafting kids out of Lakewood High. In 2007, the Phillies took catcher Travis d’Arnaud in the first round from Lakewood High. Lakewood is also the alma mater of Red Sox slugger Mike Carp and 11 other players from the school have logged time in the majors.

Currently, there are six players from Lakewood playing pro ball in big league organizations.

So maybe the Phillies expected to find another gem at Lakewood when the scouts went to watch Watson?

“It’s not something we target. I could care less what high school he’s from,” Wolever said. “It’s just a great program and they have had great players over the years. We find ourselves at their park watching players every year and I don’t anticipate that stopping.”

Crawford not only comes from a storied high school baseball program, but also comes from a strong athletic family. His cousin is Dodgers’ outfielder and 2009 All-Star Game MVP, Carl Crawford. His father, Larry, played professional football in the Canadian Football League with the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts from 1981 to 1989. When his career was over, Larry Crawford was the B.C. Lions’ all-time leader in interceptions and kickoff return yards.

But baseball is J.P. Crawford’s game and shortstop is the position Wolever sees the kid playing in the big leagues. At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Crawford has a plus arm and is a slick fielder in the middle of the diamond. His fielding is Crawford’s best attribute, though Wolever projects a lot of potential on the base paths and at the plate as a left-handed hitter.

“Physically he has to fill out a little bit and grow into his body a little more,” Wolever said. “Down the road we see him as a guy who can hit .280 or .290 in the middle of the infield with a chance to steal some bases. He has a tremendous instinct for the game, which for a young guy allows him to do some things that others can’t do at this point in time. We think he could project to 10 or 15 home runs depending on how strong he gets."

Next for Crawford come the contract negotiations. Though he has a scholarship to play for USC, one of the most storied college baseball programs in the country, Wolever is hopeful that Crawford will be playing minor league ball for the Phillies this summer.

“All indications are that he’s ready to start his professional career, but that’s a difficult decision to make,” Wolever said. “Southern Cal is a great option for him to have, but as far as development goes, I think what we have to offer is a leg up on what he might entertain by going to school.”

The Phillies have the 53rd overall pick in the second round and the 89th and 96th picks in the third round.

Phils take switch-hitting catcher in second round
In the second round, with the 53rd overall pick, the Phillies took switch-hitting catcher Andrew Knapp from the University of California. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Knapp projects to be a player that hits for average and power, but reports from scouts indicate that he has some development to go behind the plate.

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

Tonight's lineup: Phillies load up with righties vs. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon

The Phillies are loading up with right-handed hitters for Tuesday's series opener at U.S. Cellular Field against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon.

Odubel Herrera is out of the lineup and Aaron Altherr takes his place in center field. Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel are in the outfield corners. 

Carlos Ruiz serves as the designated hitter against Rodon, who has huge platoon splits. Righties have hit .305/.365/.484 against Rodon; lefties have hit .220/.268/.286.

Rodon has a changeup to stave off right-handed hitters, but he's used it only eight percent of the time this season. He's thrown his 94 mph fastball, sinker or slider with 92 percent frequency (see game notes).

Emmanuel Burriss gets a start at second base.

Ryan Howard is out of the lineup. U.S. Cellular Field is the only active stadium in which he's never played. The Phillies haven't been there since 2004.

1. Peter Bourjos, RF
2. Aaron Altherr, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Emmanuel Burriss, 2B

Suspended Phillies pitcher Alec Asher to begin rehab assignment

Suspended Phillies pitcher Alec Asher to begin rehab assignment

Phillies right-handed starting pitcher Alec Asher, who was suspended 80 games in late May for PEDs, will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in the Gulf Coast League.

Asher, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in four starts with Triple A Lehigh Valley before the ban was handed down.

The Phillies will likely stretch him back out and get a look at him again in September. They've dealt with various injuries to starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola (elbow) and Zach Eflin (knees, foot). Plus, there's the possibility Vince Velasquez is shut down at some point in September. He is five innings shy of matching his career high. That could open up a spot in the rotation for Asher.

Asher debuted with the Phils last Aug. 30 after being acquired from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. He went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts last season but pitched well in the minors early this year thanks to the addition of a two-seam fastball.

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: First trip to Chicago's South Side since 2004

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: First trip to Chicago's South Side since 2004

Phillies (58-67) at White Sox (59-64)
8:10 p.m. on CSN

After going 2-4 on a six-game homestand against the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Phillies visit the White Sox for a brief two-game series. Rarely does interleague play take the Phils to the South Side of Chicago. 

How rarely?

1. The last time ...
The last time the Phillies were in Chicago to take on the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field was 2004. 

The series was so long ago that Ryan Howard hadn't yet made his major-league debut. Chase Utley was still a part-time player. Carlos Ruiz was wrapping up his first full season at Double A.

It was so long ago that Ricky Ledee, Tomas Perez and Doug Glanville were in the Phillies' lineup, and Frank Thomas was the White Sox DH. 

Since interleague play began in 1997, the only other park the Phillies have visited as sparingly as U.S. Cellular Field is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The Phils are 1-2 at both AL Central fields. 

At the beginning of the season it looked like this would be another reunion for the Phils and Jimmy Rollins, but the shortstop was designated for assignment by the White Sox after hitting .221 through 41 games.

2. Thompson's turn
Jake Thompson makes his fourth big-league start after going 1-2 with a 8.79 ERA in his first three. 

It's been a true struggle so far for Thompson, who has allowed 14 runs in 14⅓ innings on 14 hits and nine walks. He's walked multiple batters each game, and so far just 57.5 percent of his pitches have been strikes. 

Thompson keeps falling behind hitters with men on base, which is a recipe for disaster. It just seems like he's not finishing pitches out of the stretch. Or maybe he's tried too hard to evade solid contact and has nibbled instead. Whatever the case, it hasn't worked and Thompson will need to fix it to figure out what kind of pitcher he needs to be in the majors. 

Thompson had a 1.21 ERA in his final 11 starts at Triple A. The talent is there. The execution just hasn't been. A lot of times, young pitchers come up and struggle before figuring it out. The early successes of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and even Zach Eflin (after his first start) may cause you to forget that.

3. The book on Rodon
The Phillies for the first time face 23-year-old White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, who was drafted third overall in 2014, four picks ahead of Nola.

Rodon is one of the only players in that entire draft who made it to the majors faster than Nola. He came up last season and went 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA for the White Sox, striking out 139 batters in 139⅓ innings but walking 71. 

This season, Rodon is 3-8 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 20 starts. It's been a rocky season, but he's been much better of late. Rodon missed almost all of July with a sprained wrist he suffered falling down the dugout steps. He's returned to pitch well in August, giving up four earned runs in 18 innings.

Rodon's control has improved significantly this season — he's walked 3.0 batters per nine innings after walking 4.6 as a rookie.

Rodon is a four-pitch pitcher with a four-seam fastball and sinker that average 94 mph, a slider at 87 and a changeup at 84. He throws the changeup just eight percent of the time.

Right-handed hitters have pounded Rodon this season, hitting .305/.365/.484. Lefties have hit just .220/.268/.286. Expect to see Tommy Joseph at first base and perhaps Tyler Goeddel in the outfield.

4. Scouting the Sox
The White Sox got off to a fast start this season, going 23-10 through May 9. They're 18 games under .500 since.

That early-season surge was built on timely offense and lights-out work from the bullpen. It probably inflated expectations for what is really just an average American League team.

Leadoff man Adam Eaton and veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera have had solid years for the Sox. Eaton has hit .276 with a .357 OBP and 37 extra-base hits. Cabrera has hit .295 with a .778 OPS.

The White Sox needed and still need more out of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, though. Abreu is hitting a respectable .283/.338/.447 but has just 16 home runs. And that's with Abreu heating up this month, hitting .361 with five homers. The big Cuban slugger has declined in each of his three seasons in the majors, his OPS dropping from .964 to .849 to .785. He hit 36 homers as a rookie and 30 last season.

Frazier, per usual, has hit for power with 31 homers and 76 RBIs. But he's hitting just .212 with a .295 on-base percentage, and those 31 homers account for one-third of his hits. He's also striking out a lot, on pace for 160.

The White Sox are too top-heavy a team. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are a solid one-two punch atop the rotation. On paper, Abreu and Frazier should be a productive middle-of-the-order pairing. Eaton and Cabrera are adequate table-setters. And high-priced closer David Robertson still has great stuff. But the formula just hasn't led to wins in 2016.

5. This and that
• This is the only week the rest of the season the Phillies have two off days (Monday and Thursday).

• The Phils face the White Sox in another two-game series Sept. 20-21 at Citizens Bank Park.

• The Phillies have the fifth-best interleague record in the NL this season at 8-8. 

• The Phils are 14-14 against left-handed starting pitchers.