Future Phillies Report: J.P. Crawford Possessed; 2 Prospects Back From Injuries

The Phillies had just one player in San Diego for the Midsummer Classic, Odubel Herrera, but they were well-represented in some minor-league All-Star Games this week.

Catcher Andrew Knapp, outfielder Cam Perkins and reliever Edward Mujica took part in the Triple A All-Star Game, while Reading had six players in the Double A ASG: catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Dylan Cozens, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Jesmuel Valentin and pitchers Nick Pivetta and Hoby Milner.

Both the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Reading Fightin Phils returned to action Thursday night, a day before the MLB season resumed, and both teams won. 

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Here's our midseason Future Phillies Report:

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
The concerns over Crawford's offense early in his tenure at Triple A turned out to be overblown. After hitting .153 in his first 83 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley, Crawford has hit .356/.408/.500 in his last 132 PAs. 

Over those 29 games, Crawford has raised his batting average to .279 and his OBP to .352. He's been a force lately out of the two-hole for the IronPigs, with six multi-hit games in July and 12 in his last 22.

The one aspect of Crawford's game that has been slow to develop is power — not just home run power but gap power that leads to doubles. Crawford has just 11 extra-base hits in 215 plate appearances at Triple A. In his four-year minor-league career, he's averaged one extra-base hit every 16 trips to the dish. Power is not his game, but the Phillies are hoping Crawford can eventually be a 30-plus double per year guy.

It's why Crawford's three-run homer on Thursday night was such a welcome sign.

Defensively, Crawford has been sound this season, making routine and spectacular plays alike. He has just four errors in 426⅓ innings at shortstop with Lehigh Valley. His fielding percentage there is 29 points higher than it was last season, which is the difference between committing four errors and 10.

Crawford, 21, still looks like more of a September call-up than anything else, but if he continues to hit and one of the Phillies' middle infielders gets injured, we could see him promoted sooner. As of now, though, the plan is likely to give Crawford some MLB experience in September — maybe eight to 10 starts — and then let him battle for the opening day shortstop job in 2017. 

RHP Jake Thompson (AAA)
A glaring omission from the Triple A All-Star Game, Thompson could be with the Phillies two weeks from now. The Aug. 1 MLB trade deadline is approaching and Jeremy Hellickson looks like the team's most realistically tradable asset. Hellickson's removal from the rotation would open up a spot for Thompson, who is not on the 40-man roster but has laid waste to Triple A offenses lately.

In 17 starts this season, Thompson is 7-5 with a 2.58 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He's allowed just nine home runs in 104⅔ innings, and his groundball rate seems to rise with each start. Thompson has a microscopic 0.73 ERA in his last seven outings, allowing four earned runs in 49⅓ innings. There isn't much left to prove at Triple A.

Baseball America recently ranked Thompson the 62nd-best prospect in the minors, opining that he lacks star potential but could be a back-end starter in the majors right now. 

The opinion here is that, yes, he could be a No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the majors right now, but his upside is higher. Thompson is not your garden variety sinkerballer who sits in the high-80s and relies on pinpoint command. He can reach 94-95 mph with his four-seam fastball when he wants. It's only relatively recently that Thompson has changed his approach on the mound to get outs earlier in counts and be more efficient. He's shown the pitchability the Phillies sought from Vince Velasquez. Thompson's four-seam fastball is not as live as Velasquez's, but he can generate whiffs with it. When the Phillies acquired Thompson from the Rangers, he had 330 strikeouts in 329 career minor-league innings. In the Phils' system, he has 106 K's in 149⅔ innings.

Thompson looks to continue his dominance Friday night against the Blue Jays' Triple A affiliate (which happens to have Domonic Brown).

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams left seven men on base Thursday as Lehigh Valley began its second-half schedule, but he also doubled twice, giving him 22 on the season and 21 since May 8, second-most in the league over that span to veteran Casey McGehee.

The Phillies don't want to rush Williams to the majors. They don't want to do what they did with Brown, sending him up and down a few times and not having consistent, everyday at-bats for him in The Show at first. They want to bring Williams up and play him regularly when it's time. Right now, it's not time. They want Williams' plate discipline numbers (18 walks, 83 strikeouts this season; 21 and 103 including last year at Reading) to improve. 

They also don't have an everyday spot for him at the moment, even though Williams very clearly represents the future in the Phils' outfield. Odubel Herrera will remain the everyday centerfielder, and the Phils want to figure out whether Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche, who are both playing well, belong in their future plans. Aaron Altherr is also close to returning and they'll want as long a look as possible at him. 

Williams' best chance at making the majors before September is if Bourjos is traded.

In 346 plate appearances this season, Williams has hit .284/.322/.459 with 22 doubles, five triples, eight homers and 41 RBIs. He's played 29 games in center, 28 games in left field and 22 in right.

C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
Alfaro's power has been overshadowed by the Bash Brothers, Hoskins and Cozens, a duo that has combined for 49 home runs with Reading already. But it was Alfaro who went deepest in the Eastern League Home Run Derby earlier this week, going deep 29 times and falling one short of winning the contest. 

There's no doubt about the power in Alfaro's bat or arm. He looks capable of someday hitting 25 home runs in the majors and controlling a running game. The biggest questions about his game are related to injuries and his approach at the plate. Alfaro missed the entire second half of last season with an ankle injury and then missed three weeks this season with an oblique strain. He's been healthy since and performing out of the three-hole for Reading.

Then there's the matter of his plate selection. Alfaro has five times as many strikeouts (553) as walks (109) in his minor-league career. This season, he has 14 walks and 61 K's. But that ratio has improved dramatically over the last few weeks, as 10 of Alfaro's walks have come in his last 10 games.

On the season, he's hitting .297/.336/.496 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs. He's thrown out 25 of 54 base stealers (46 percent).

OF Dylan Cozens, 1B Rhys Hoskins (AA)
The Bash Bros. went 0 for 9 with four strikeouts in their return to the field Thursday, one of the rare Reading wins in which they played no role.

Both had nice games in the Double A All-Star Game this week, with Hoskins hitting a three-run homer in the first inning and Cozens walking, stealing a base and scoring two runs.

Not much else to update with this tandem. Cozens' 51 extra-base hits, 16 steals, 75 RBIs and 76 runs scored are MVP-like, but his three strikeouts Thursday gave him 111 in 383 plate appearances this season. As Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said to CSNPhilly.com last month, there's no reason Cozens should be striking out 30 percent of the time. You get the sense the Phillies aren't going to seriously consider him a building block for the future until he can get that under control.

Cozens also has some pretty massive splits. A left-handed hitter, he's hit .313 with 21 homers and a 1.050 OPS against righties compared to .186 with three homers and a .641 OPS against lefties. He's also hit 20 of the 24 home runs at Reading's homer-friendly ballpark.

Hoskins' production has been more consistent. He's hit nine of his 25 home runs on the road and hit lefties (.972 OPS) and righties (.909) alike.

OF Mickey Moniak (GCL)
Ranked this week the 45th-best prospect in the minors by ESPN's Keith Law, Moniak is off to a solid but unspectacular start in the Gulf Coast League. Through 13 games, he's 14 for 51 (.275) with a triple, a homer and 10 RBIs. He's 1 for 4 in stolen base attempts.

Moniak's hit tool is well-regarded and there seems to be a strong chance he'll hit for average in the majors. Can he be a double-digit home run guy? We won't know for years, and a lot of it could depend on how much muscle Moniak (6-2/185) adds. 

GCL teammate Jhailyn Ortiz, who the Phillies spent $4 million to sign last season as an international free agent, is hitting .279 with four homers and 13 RBIs. If things pan out with Ortiz, he could be a middle-of-the-order first baseman for the Phillies five years from now. The kid is still just 17 years old.

LF Cornelius Randolph (A)
The Phillies' first-round pick in 2015 finally made it back to Lakewood after missing more than two months with an injury in his upper back/shoulder area. Randolph, 19, has had three good games in a row, going 8 for 13 with two doubles and two walks.

The Phillies have high hopes for the 19-year-old Randolph, who they considered the best high school hitter in last year's draft. He's been selective at the plate so far in his pro career, hitting .285/.401/.406 with 42 walks and 54 strikeouts. A left-handed hitter, Randolph has just two home runs so far in 309 plate appearances but has 19 doubles.

RHP Nick Pivetta (AA)
The right-hander acquired from the Nationals in last summer's Jonathan Papelbon trade has pitched very well this season for Reading, going 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 17 starts. 

Pivetta missed eight days with a groin strain at the beginning of the month but returned right before the All-Star break and pitched five shutout innings with six strikeouts to earn another win. He then pitched a scoreless inning in the Double A All-Star Game.

Just yet another arm in the pipeline for the Phillies, one who figures to lead Lehigh Valley's rotation next year. Pivetta, a candidate to earn an invite to big-league camp next year, will turn 24 next February.

CF Roman Quinn (AA)
The most disappointing first half for any Phillies prospect not named Mark Appel probably belonged to Quinn, who landed on the disabled list yet again in late June with an oblique strain. Quinn is still a few weeks away from returning.

The Phils' dynamic, versatile speedster has been unable to stay on the field for any lengthy period of time throughout his five-year pro career. His career high in games played is just 88. Quinn was hitting .288/.361/.420 with 17 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 50 games when he went on the shelf this time. 

But at 23, Quinn is still young enough to work his way back from all the injuries (most of them leg issues) and carve out a role in the Phillies' future. The organization is high on his abilities, but one ability he hasn't shown so far is reliability. It's not his fault, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing.

2B Jesmuel Valentin (AA)
The only one of Reading's six All-Star to play all nine innings in the Double A All-Star Game, Valentin has taken an important step forward this season.

In 80 games, the switch-hitting infielder has batted .290/.362/.422 with 15 doubles, five triples and five homers. His entire game is ahead of where it was last year with Clearwater.

"Nice little player" is the description you often hear about Valentin, who's hit .290 from the left side and .292 from the right side this season. It's unclear what the Phillies have in him — maybe he's a future starting second baseman, maybe he's a utility guy, but he's more than organizational depth. And the fact that the Phillies got anything more than organizational depth in the 2014 Roberto Hernandez trade is crazy.

RHP Jimmy Cordero (High A)
There was some excitement when the Phillies acquired Cordero, a reliever who can reach 100 mph with his fastball, from the Blue Jays last summer in the Ben Revere trade. There's some thought Cordero could be the Phils' closer at some point in the future.

But first, he'll need to stay healthy and climb the minor-league ladder. Cordero missed most of spring training and the first half this season with arm issues. He returned recently and was promoted to High A Clearwater after four games in the Gulf Coast League. So far, Cordero has a 2.35 ERA with 11 strikeouts and six walks in 7⅔ innings.

Cordero (6-3/215) is not as young as most of the Phillies' top prospects. He'll be 25 in October. He's already on the Phils' 40-man roster, and ideally they'd like to see him at some point next season.

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