Earlier Wednesday, Baseball America editor John Manuel laid bare an opinion that a growing number of Phillies fans had come to fear themselves: That J.P. Crawford, a one-time global top 10 prospect, was “no longer an impact player.”
This reversal of fortune comes in the form of a near de-listing of Crawford among the game’s top 100 prospects at mid-season from BA, a drop from No. 12 into the 90s. You can read more here ($).
So what does this mean?
It means about as much as any of Crawford’s previous rankings - they’re all just numbers on a page, in the end - and a variable amount more than anything you or I think, depending on your respect for authority. I haven’t watched as much Crawford as others (one live game, lots of video), but I’ve been a big believer in the glowing reports of yesteryear filed by people much smarter than I.
Staunch a supporter as I might be, it’s become impossible to overlook the souring of the situation. J.P. has struggled profusely in Triple-A, and you can only float on potential for so long as the triple slash stays bogged down by lost plate appearances.
Look, it’s easy to get down on things. Lots of people are very eager to move on from Crawford and anoint Rhys Hoskins or Scott Kingery or Sixto Sanchez or Just Somebody Else this team’s top prospect. Crawford has been a phantom to the eyes of many Phillies fans, simply because there’s no super-easy way to watch games in the advanced minors, much less A-ball games for more recent draftees.
Crawford, though, is still just 22 and emerged hot from a week-and-a-half of rest due to injury. Last year, at 21, he was the second-youngest regular in the entire International League after his promotion. He still has, even by naysayers’ accounts, an impressive control of the strike zone and works tough counts even in the face of his protracted struggles. And he still plays a fine shortstop. There are still plenty of reasons to believe in JPC, newfound flaws and all.
But all of the above circles back to the concept from just a few paragraphs up: This is just talk and conjecture and that, ultimately, does not matter. What matters is what Crawford does and, while that hasn’t been awesome lately, none of what came before will stand as gospel once Crawford gets a chance at the Major League level. And rest assured: He will reach the Majors one day. Only then can we as a judgmental public truly begin to decide what kind of “impact” Crawford will have on the Phillies organization, whether that comes as the team’s starting shortstop, as a reserve or as a trade asset.
All of us will continue to think what we’ll think, believing or not believing, until Crawford either succeeds or busts at the MLB level. His is not a predetermined fate beyond that. J.P., for his part, seems ready to add this latest detraction to his internal fire:
All it is is motivation..— jp crawford (@jp_crawford) July 12, 2017
Still just talk, though. Words on a digital page. And while this chapter in Crawford’s story’s been bleak, only he will eventually tell us just how far we are from the conclusion.