A toolsy middle infielder with an ultra-high ceiling, Lakewood's JP Crawford has forced his way into the first round debate by virtue of his almost-limitless tools. But questions do continue to surround him as a player.
6'2", 175 lbs.
DOB: 1/11/95 (18.54 years on June 6)
John Paul (JP) Crawford is a rangy shortstop/pitching prospect from Lakewood High School near Los Angeles. He's blessed with a terrific pedigree: Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford is his uncle, and his father, Larry, was a defensive back at Iowa State and in the Canadian Football League.
Crawford doesn't have the solid, compact body so common even for prep prospects in the Southland. Often, you can tell the seniors and the top prospects with a quick eyeball test. Not JP. He still has a lot of room to grown and fill in - true of every prep prospect, but doubly true for him.
His game is similarly less refined; less polished. He doesn't have the "classic" shortstop skills that Oscar Mercado possesses. When Crawford plays, it's a flash of limbs. A force of pure, natural talent and athleticism. In the right system, with the right coaching, with the right amount of luck, JP Crawford is going to be a star. More tools than a Home Depot. The inner fire and leadership qualities you covet in a prep prospect. The ability and the athleticism to completely take over a game - at the plate, in the field, on the mount, on the bases - wherever.
In one game I watched, Crawford's Lakewood team scored in the top of the 7th to tie the game against Bishop Amat. Amat put the first two batters on in the bottom of the 7th. With a walk-off loss imminent, Lakewood's coach didn't hesitate. He moved Crawford, his shortstop, to the mound. Crawford proceeded to dominate Amat's lineup, not allowing anyone to advance. In the first frame of extra innings, he laced a single down the line to right, stole second and third bases, and came home on a sacrifice fly. He then pitched the bottom of the 8th and struck out two batters.
That's Crawford's strength, but it's also his weakness. There are plays where it seems so easy to him that he looks almost bored. I'm a sucker for a guy who plays like he has something to prove on every single play. That's not Crawford. He stays loose and relaxed, chattering with his teammates and keeping them loose in the dugout. I suspect he'll be a great clubhouse guy, and will work hard when he needs to, but players with this much obvious self-confidence always make me a little nervous. I prefer guys with motors that don't quit.
Evaluators don't quite know what to do with a guy like Crawford - he's so raw that a lot of questions exist. Can he stick at short? I'm inclined to think so. He's rangy, quick, has great instincts, and flashes a lightning-quick transfer and a very strong arm. Will he hit? That's less certain, and it lowers his floor. The contact skills are there, and he shows decent pitch recognition. If it clicks for him, he could be a guy who adds power later in his development and becomes a legitimate 20/20 threat.
High school shortstops are notoriously tricky picks. Since 2008, forty-six players have started at least 150 games at shortstop in the major leagues. Of those, only four - Derek Jeter, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, and J.J. Hardy - were drafted as shortstops out of American high schools.
That's not to say that high school shortstops never become major leaguers, because they do. Just not usually as shortstops. Since 2004, 19 high school shortstops have been drafted in the first round. Together, that group has played just 200 innings at the position in the majors. 197 of those were from Pete Kozma.
Like a lot of toolsy players, Crawford could wind up as a man without a position, but it seems unlikely, as he grades out as an extremely good defender in center or second, with a decent hit tool and good speed, even if he can't stick at short. But if you want to discuss a true floor for him, it's Jimmy Paredes/Chris Burke territory.
Note everything said above. It stands to reason, then, that if a prospect can stick at shortstop, that prospect is gold.
The good news is that JP Crawford can almost definitely stick at shortstop. He has good range and speed, soft hands, and a plus arm that makes throws from the hole look like a walk in the park.
Crawford could be a dangerous middle-of-the-lineup/middle-of-the-infield talent. I don't need to tell you that those are rare and highly-prized commodities.
His potential ceiling has almost no limit. His uncle, Carl Crawford, would be a pretty good start.
Projected Draft Round
Perfect Game (5): This is only among draft-eligible high school players. Crawford is PG's top-ranked high school shortstop prospect, though other organizations have him second behind Oscar Mercado. He's also ranked as California's #2 prep prospect behind 1B Dominic Smith.
Crawford's status is a little difficult to place, given the volatility of high school shortstops, as well as his age relative to the rest of the high school class - at 18.54 years old on Draft Day, Rany Jazayerli would rank him as old. There's little doubt that he'll be taken in the first round - the only question is how high.
Baseball America and Minor League Ball rank him among their top ten, and there are rumors that Houston has him near the top of their draft board. He could go 1-1, but I also wouldn't be shocked if he falls to the bottom of the first round. It really boils down to who's willing to take a chance on a toolsy kid with their first-round pick.
Crawford, along with Smith, are the jewels of USC's recruiting class, but both may be lured away by first round pick money.
From Before The Bigs:
Though Crawford was drawn to the campus and coaching staff of USC when he visited last year, there is something that would prevent him from becoming a Trojan.
"It depends on what round I get drafted and how much money I get," said Crawford.
It will be a while before Crawford's mind is made up, but rest assured there's a magic number that will make the decision a whole lot easier.
It does bear mentioning that the USC coaching staff with whom Crawford fell in love included Head Coach Frank Cruz, who was fired shortly before the beginning of the season.
Well-known on the showcase circuit, Crawford has a plus arm and easy, flowing motions defensively. While he grades out as an average runner, he is a threat on the bases. Crawford has a loose, wristy stroke and can hit the ball to all fields. He has average raw power and could grow into more as he matures. How high he goes in the Draft may depend on how much teams feel his bat will come.
Crawford got the chance to show off his skills at a number of summer stops, playing in the Area Code Games as well as the Under Armour All-American Game and Perfect Game All-American Classic, stealing two bases and going 1-for-4 in that last event of the summer for him.
Crawford’s athletic resume is pretty flawless. A Perfect Game All-American, he has 6.7 speed in the 60 and plays even faster than that in game action. Crawford’s arm strength has improved significantly in the last year and he now throws 90 mph across the infield and 91 mph off the mound. With a lithe and athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound build, he’s going to add strength to his already impressive bat speed as he matures physically.
The way I feel about Mercado is how many of the professionals in the business feel about Crawford, a steady riser who now sits atop the majority of big league clubs' middle infield boards. What's funny about Crawford's recent rise is that so much of it is predicated on his improved defense up the middle. In my first looks at Crawford last year, it was actually his defense at shortstop that stood out to me the most. Not for nothing, but I heard down in Florida that the Astros really, really, really like Crawford. Really.