On a road map, Lakewood (N.J.) is only 71 miles east of Philadelphia, but that’s a little over a one-hour drive into a glimpse of the future for fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. The organization has a shortstop who fields the position flawlessly and has never hit below .288 in any season of professional baseball. His name is not Jimmy Rollins.
J.P. Crawford, last year’s first-round MLB draft choice, appears to be the future of the team at the position, and so far, the reviews have been very good. That has to be good news because Rollins’ skills have been on the steady decline since the 2007 season when he hit .297 with 30 home runs. In an ideal world, Rollins would stay this year and next while Crawford samples the pitching at both Double A and Triple A.
While Rollins unquestionably is the team’s greatest shortstop ever, there are indications that Crawford could be every bit as good. Just compare the two first seasons in pro baseball. In Martinsville, S.C. 18 years ago, Rollins started his Phillies career in a Rookie League with a .238 average. Crawford’s first year in rookie ball came last summer at Clearwater, Fla. when he hit .345. In his second season at Piedmont (N.C.), Rollins hit .270. In Class A ball, Crawford is currently hitting .288 with a homer and five stolen bases in 16 games.
It’s admittedly a small sample, but Crawford is every bit the player Rollins was in his first two pro seasons.
Crawford is playing for the Phillies’ Class A team, Lakewood (N.J.), one year after finishing his high school career for the similarly named Lakewood (Calif.) High School. Crawford has good bloodlines. His father, Larry Crawford, was a five-time Canadian Football League All-Star defensive back and his cousin, Carl Crawford, currently plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With only the light-hitting but slick-fielding Freddy Galvis and the aging Rollins ahead of him, Crawford is on the fast track for arrival at Citizens Bank Park. And for fans looking for more production out of that position, it cannot come soon enough.