Phillies plan to play J.P. Crawford as much as possible down the stretch

Phillies plan to play J.P. Crawford as much as possible down the stretch

NEW YORK — From the front office on down, the Phillies organization is eager to take a look at prospect J.P. Crawford and get a gauge on whether he could be part of the big-league roster in April.

So it was no surprise that Crawford, on his first day in the majors, was in the team's starting lineup, batting seventh and playing third base against the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Crawford, 22, will play a lot over the final 25 games of this season that was from the outset dedicated to finding out who will be part of the future and who won't.

"I won't say every day, but as much as I can," manager Pete Mackanin said before Tuesday night's game. "The whole idea is to get his feet wet up here."

Crawford, considered by many to be the Phillies' top prospect from the time he was selected 16th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft, is a shortstop by trade. At the moment, the Phillies are more concerned with getting him at-bats than they are time at shortstop. That's why he recently began learning to play third base. He will play that position, and also some second base, this month.

Mackanin projected that Crawford would play "five or six" games at shortstop. That means Freddy Galvis may not play in all of the team's 162 games, as is his goal. Galvis, the Phils' starting shortstop since the start of 2015, has played Gold Glove-caliber defense this season, but he entered Tuesday night with an on-base percentage of just .304. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is committed to building his team around players with strong on-base skills. Crawford has them. His career on-base percentage in the minors is .367. All of this points to Galvis or third baseman Maikel Franco being shopped for a wintertime trade that would open a spot for Crawford. Franco, who carries a .278 on-base percentage, was bounced from the lineup in favor of Crawford on Tuesday night. Regardless of where Crawford plays next season, he still profiles as the team's shortstop of the future. Galvis will be a free agent after next season.

If Galvis, 27, feels as if he is being pushed out, he hasn't revealed it — at least publicly. He has said all the right things (see story). He welcomed Crawford to the clubhouse with a hug Tuesday afternoon and was seen giving his left-side-infield partner some tips between innings during the game.

"Freddy has been very good about it," Mackanin said. "Right now he’s our shortstop and that’s the way I look at it. We’re getting a look at the other kid, just like we found a spot for (Rhys) Hoskins (in left field) to try to get a look at him. We know Crawford can play shortstop and we feel that he’s going to be a good shortstop. At the same time, he has to get a taste of the major leagues. Eventually he’s going to be here. So it’s a good way to do it. Last year, (Ryan) Howard had to sit so we could a look at [Tommy Joseph]. That’s the way it is."

Crawford survived a brutal first half of this season and finished with a .243 batting average and a .756 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley. From June 20 through Monday's regular-season finale, he hit .280 with a .381 on-base percentage, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a .904 OPS.

It was a no-brainer that the Phils would take a look at Crawford this month; they would have had to place him on the 40-man roster in November anyway. Still, Crawford was a little surprised to get the call on the day he helped Lehigh Valley clinch a berth in the International League playoffs. Competing in a playoff series — at any level — can benefit a player's development. The Phillies, however, decided they wanted to see Crawford now.

"I thought I was going to stick around for playoffs and then Dusty (Wathan, the Triple A manager) told me and I was speechless," Crawford said. "It has been my dream since I was a little kid to play in the big leagues and I'm just happy to be here."

Crawford's poor first half this season left some pundits questioning his prospect status. He ranked as high as No. 6 in the game on Baseball America's list entering the 2016 season. In July, the publication dropped him to 92nd.

"It kind of sparked a fire right there," Crawford said.

Crawford said he has enjoyed playing new positions and that it doesn’t matter where he plays because the big leagues are where every players wants to be.

"I’m going to do the best I can do and hopefully get a spot for next year," he said. "Until then, I’m just focused on today. I just want to focus on this game today and take it day by day. I'm happy to be here and I want to help this team."

Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

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Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

For a couple of weeks in August, Rhys Hoskins might have been Philadelphia's most popular athlete. Fans marveled at the nightly power display that the young slugger put on in the middle of the Phillies' batting order. Carson Wentz and the Eagles had not yet begun their magnificent season. Hoskins was the man in town.

It hit him one night after a game. He stopped in Center City for some late-night eats. A man and his young son approached. They offered their congratulations and asked for an autograph.

"That's when I was like, 'OK, this might be something that's about to be part of my life,' " Hoskins said. "But it was cool because I used to be that kid."

Hoskins was back in the area Monday night for the 114th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner. He was honored with a special achievement award for a torrid major league debut in which he clubbed 18 homers and drove in 48 runs in just 50 games last season.

Hoskins was raised in Sacramento, California but moved to San Diego this offseason. His 18 homers in 2017 were the most ever hit by a player who did not make his season debut until after Aug. 1. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who hit 13 homers after returning from the Korean War in 1953, was the previous record holder.

Williams was a San Diego native.

"Surreal," Hoskins said of that 50-game stretch last season and the buzz that has followed him into the offseason. "Indescribable."

He is now a recognizable face, a signature talent, in a sports-crazy town.

And he's ready for it.

"Enjoy it," he said. "Take it by storm and enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun and that's probably the best approach to take. I think my thought is what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen. Tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. So I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it.

"If you had asked me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and would people recognize me I'd probably laugh at you. But that’s where we are now.

"It's just a testament to how passionate the people of Philadelphia are and how much they love their sports."

Hoskins will report to Clearwater for spring training at the end of this month. He wants to get a head start so he can ramp up his workouts in left field. A first baseman by trade, he began playing the position occasionally last season. He will move there full-time in 2018 as newly signed Carlos Santana takes over at first base.

Hoskins got a 30-game taste of left field last year. He is OK with the move.

"Having Carlos is exciting for the city and exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who has proven himself in this league for five or six years at a very high level so to kind of insert that into the lineup and into the clubhouse, especially with such a young team — I think we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year.

"Left field is a challenge. It's a challenge that I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year.

"I think I can be just fine out there. I'm not necessarily going to be a Gold Glover. I just don’t have the speed that some guys out there do, especially in today's game. But I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can and make the plays that I'm supposed to."

Hoskins will turn 25 on March 17. He projects to bat cleanup in new manager Gabe Kapler's lineup.

"He's energized, intense and thorough," Hoskins said of the new skipper. "He can captivate a room. I'm curious to see how that dynamic works in the clubhouse. I think he's going to be a pretty exciting guy to work with."

Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

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Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

The Phillies wrapped up all of their potential salary arbitration cases when they agreed to 2018 contracts with infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and relief pitcher Luis Garcia on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the team agreed on a contract with catcher Cameron Rupp.

Those were the club's only arbitration-eligible players.

Hernandez, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $5.1 million in 2018, up from $2.55 million last season. 

Franco and Garcia were both eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.

Franco will make $2.95 million, up from $560,000 last season. The 25-year-old third baseman had a disappointing season in 2017, hitting just .230 with a .281 on-base percentage. He did hit a team-high 24 home runs.

Franco has great potential and club management will be looking for him to put it together in 2018. But even a strong season from Franco probably won't sway the club away from making a run at Manny Machado, who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market next winter.

Garcia, who turns 31 later this month, will make $1.2 million in 2018, up from $550,000 last year.

Back in October, new manager Gabe Kapler mentioned Garcia as a player who had caught his attention. Consistency had long eluded the hard-throwing right-hander but he found it in 2017 and had his best season. He added a splitter to his power fastball-slider mix and posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 games. He gave up just four earned runs in 22⅓ innings over his final 23 games, and three of those runs came in one outing.

Hernandez, the team's 27-year-old second baseman, has been one of the Phils' top players the last two seasons. He hit .294 and posted a .372 on-base percentage over that span.

The Phils are deep at second base and top prospect Scott Kingery is expected to be ready to arrive in the majors during the first half of the 2018 season. With Kingery coming, there is a chance the Phils could cash in on Hernandez's value and trade him for pitching sometime between now and Kingery's expected arrival.

Hernandez will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.

Hernandez's former double-play mate, Freddy Galvis, was traded to San Diego in December. Rookie J.P. Crawford will move in at shortstop in 2018. Galvis settled his potential arbitration case with the Padres on Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.825 million.

Rupp, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time, will make $2.05 million in 2018. He is one of three catchers on the 40-man roster along with Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. Alfaro is out of minor-league options and will be given the chance to be the team's No. 1 catcher in April.