Shortly after shortstop J.P. Crawford met the press days after the Phillies selected him 16th overall in the 2013 draft, Metro asked the then 18-year old kid, about any brushes with Jimmy Rollins.
“I talked to him,” Crawford said. “He was really nice and he’s a great player but I’m going to be better than him.”
When Crawford interacted with the media last week at Citizens Bank Park along with nine other highly touted Phillies prospects, Metro couldn’t help but ask the phenom shortstop if he remembers the conversation.
“I do,” Crawford said. “And I stand by it. I believe I’m going to be that good. That’s not a knock on Jimmy Rollins. He really is a great player and I’m going to be cheering for him to have a tremendous year with my Dodgers.”
While growing up in Lakewood, California, Crawford rooted for the Dodgers but only in a casual manner. Like most gifted ballplayers, his primary focus was on his own performance.
“Even at a young age, you work on being the best you can be, if you’re focused and determined.”
Carl Crawford’s cousin, J.P has a bevy of tools and is the Phillies top prospect. It wouldn’t be surprising if Crawford, who turned 20 last week, starts the season at Double-A Reading after impressing at High A Clearwater, where he hit .275 with seven doubles, eight homers and 29 RBI.
“Since I’m (the top prospect) and I put some numbers last season, I know how to produce,” Crawford said. “I put pressure on myself to be the best that I can be. I want to be up with the Phillies sooner than later.”
The odds are the prospect who will reach Citizens Bank Park first is Aaron Nola, who was the 2014 first round draft pick, who went seventh overall last June. Nola, 21, will take part in his first big league camp in less than a month and could begin the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
“I’m excited about the potential opportunity,” Nola said. “If I pitch well enough, at some point, I’ll be here which will be awesome.”
Zach Eflin, 20, and Tom Windle, 22, a pair of big righthanded arms acquired in the Rollins trade who could start the season in AA Reading, are well aware of the opportunity they have with a rebuilding franchise.
“It’s exciting to be part of a franchise that is looking for young arms,” Eflin said. “But I know that I have to pitch well to be considered. I’m just going to take it one game and one pitch at a time. But yes, I’m aware of where I can eventually reach.”
Roman Quinn, 21, is one of the most intriguing prospects. Quinn, a born burner, he came back from a ruptured Achillies last season, somehow miraculously recovered his speed. His time from home to first is a ridiculous 3.96. Quinn, who could start the season at Double-A Reading, tore up the Arizona Fall League and is earning raves for his defensive work in center.
“I feel like I’m putting it all together,” Quinn said. “I’ve had my share of injuries (he also suffered a broken wrist) but that’s all behind me. I’m really excited about the future. How cool would it be if most or all of these guys in this room make a really big impact with the Phillies in three years? How cool would that be?”