READING, Pa. — J.P. Crawford has met every challenge the Phillies have thrown his way thus far. Why should Double A be any different?
The answer is it hasn't. The 21-year-old shortstop is doing at Reading in 2016 what he's done at every other level of the Phillies organization: produce. Through 17 games, Crawford is tied for seventh in the Eastern League in runs (12) and hits (19) as well as tied for fourth in on-base percentage (.418). His batting average (.292) is 27 points higher and his OBP a whopping 64 points better than last season at this level.
If this keeps up, Crawford is fast headed for another promotion. The Phillies' top prospect could be on his way to Triple A Lehigh Valley — and only one step from the majors — in a matter of weeks. Yet despite his continued success, he isn't concerning himself with what comes next.
"You don't worry about that," said Crawford. "You just gotta go out there every day and focus where you're at, focus on that nine, trying to help your team get a W. That's all I'm worried about right now."
And aid his team in a win is exactly what Crawford did on Monday at First Energy Park in Reading, crossing the plate twice in a 7-4 victory.
"I'm sticking with the plan, I'm seeing good pitches, and I'm just executing on the pitches I want to swing at, finding the barrel and just going with it."
It was an otherwise inconspicuous line for Crawford, who went 0-for-3 with a walk in the contest. Still, he often finds ways to make his presence felt even when he isn't tearing the cover off of the ball.
Though he has just five extra-base hits, Crawford has reached base safely with a hit or walk in all but two games this season. The free pass was his 14th, which is good for third in the league. He works deep counts, is comfortable hitting with two strikes and shows tremendous patience, seeing five or more pitches in three of his four at bats on Monday.
"You've gotta know what the pitcher is throwing that day and just stick with the plan," Crawford said of his approach. "If it's a pitch you can't handle early in the count, you just don't swing and wait for your pitch."
Plate discipline has long been a calling card of Crawford's. He's walked (174) more than he's struck out (173) in his four-year minor-league career. At his age and experience level, that's also partly what makes him such a unique prospect.
"It's outstanding for a young hitter," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "He's patient at the plate, he's aggressive when he needs to be, when he wants to be. He just knows how to hit his pitch and put the barrel on the ball.
"He's a special player. He's got a special knack for being able to do that. That's why he is where he is right now."
Crawford demonstrates remarkable poise for a young athlete who's risen through the Phillies' farm system as quickly as he has. His path to the majors has been practically inevitable and he's all but been anointed one of the saviors of the franchise. Cousin of four-time MLB All-Star Carl Crawford, son to four-time Canadian Football League All-Star Larry Crawford, J.P. could choose to view professional baseball and future accolades almost as a birthright.
Instead, the 2013 first-round draft pick comes across as humble and dedicated. Asked whether he envisions himself as a fixture on the Phillies' 25-man roster this time next year, Crawford spoke as if that were an attainable goal for anybody in his situation.
"I'm pretty sure everybody does, but I just keep putting in the work I'm doing every day, just keep getting stronger, keep getting better, something everyday and I think I've got a good shot."
No doubt, Crawford's teammates in Reading would love to be on the same fast track to the big leagues. As it turns out, he's the only of them who is widely considered one of the top five prospects in all of baseball right now. He's also the only one who's drawn comparisons to longtime Phillies shortstop and franchise all-time hits leader Jimmy Rollins.
"Yeah, but you've gotta put in the work, put in the work everyday, and just go about your business so maybe one day I can be that guy," Crawford says, deftly batting away such lofty parallels.
Crawford seems as patient for his moment in the spotlight as he is standing in the batter's box waiting for his pitch. The reality is he probably won't have to wait long, with a September call-up well within sight at his current rate.
In fact, Crawford already got his first small taste of the show this year as a Phillies spring training invitee, culminating with the futures game at Citizens Bank Park, describing the experience and fan ovation as "unreal."
"You've been dreaming of that day since you got drafted, and just finally being on that field and playing over there — I can't wait to get up there."
It was a rare moment of impatience for Crawford. Fortunately, he probably won't have to wait a whole lot longer.