Phils get taste of Future in Crawford, Franco
Pair of top prospects compete for USA, World teams for All-Star week
MINNEAPOLIS -- Things have moved quickly for J.P. Crawford since the Phillies drafted him in the first round just over a year ago.
After signing, he was jumped from the Gulf Coast (rookie league) to Class A Lakewood. He opened this season with the BlueClaws before being promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater. And he's still just 19 years old.
"I've been moved pretty fast in our organization. They're trying to push me on the fast track, and I like the challenge," he said before Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Target Field.
Also representing the Phillies organization was infielder Maikel Franco, who has gotten hot at Triple-A Lehigh Valley after a slow start.
Crawford entered the Futures Game as a defensive replacement for the US team in the top of the fifth. He led off the bottom of the sixth with a bloop single to left. He eventually stole second and scored the tying run when DH Joey Gallo (Rangers) homered to right. In the bottom of the eighth he hit a slow roller up the middle and was out by a step at first.
Franco entered to play third base for the World team in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the seventh, with one out and a runner on first, he popped out to right field. He then flied out to center for the final out of the game.
Crawford conceded that this season had been a whirlwind.
"I've learned that it's a long year," he said. "You've got to keep your head up. You can't get down on yourself -- that's been the main thing."
Crawford said he kept himself grounded by texting with Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks and Travis d'Arnaud, a catcher in the Mets organization. The three work out together in the offseason.
"If I have a question, I always go to them because they've been through it. I'm really close to them," he said.
Crawford is rated as the Phillies' No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. When he reported to Clearwater on June 15, he was the youngest player in the Florida State League. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he is nearly four years younger than the average player in the league.
His most impressive stat may be that he has a career .386 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues. Not bad for someone who just graduated from high school last June.
For Franco, it was his second straight selection to the Futures Game.
"That's amazing for me," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity, and I just want to take advantage of it."
MLB.com has Franco ranked as the Phillies' top prospect. He struggled making the adjustment to Triple-A earlier in the season but has been on a tear recently. In his past 10 games with the IronPigs he is hitting .348 with a home run and 11 RBIs.
While there was some speculation in Spring Training that Franco might challenge Cody Asche for the starting third base job in the big leagues, he said his early slump was not a result of being disappointed at being sent down or pressing too hard.
"I don't think anything about it," he said. "That's baseball, you know what I mean? It's just something that happens. You just have to keep working hard."
Franco has also been playing some first base at Lehigh Valley. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said recently that if Franco were called up in the second half this season, he would most likely get some time at that position, giving Ryan Howard a break against some left-handers.
"You have to be ready for anything," Franco said. "You play third, but you play first base, too. You have to be ready to play both positions. I feel comfortable at first. I've been taking a lot of ground balls, and I feel good there."
For a Phillies team that is transitioning from the core group that won five straight National League East titles, it may not be long before Franco and Crawford get a chance to show what they can do at Citizens Bank Park. But both say they are willing to be patient.
"I just want to play good and see what happens," the 21-year-old Franco said.
Added Crawford: "I'm not too focused on that. I'm not worried about it. I'll be there when my time comes."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.