Best of Justin Crawford, son of Carl, yet to come

July 18th, 2022

The Phillies selected Justin Crawford with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2022 Draft. Here's a deeper look at Crawford that was first published on in the weeks leading up to the Draft.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Growing up, Justin Crawford tried to play baseball exactly like his dad. He copied his batting stance, even though it didn’t feel totally natural. He tried to hit like him, even though it led to a bunch of strikeouts that frustrated him and his mom.

As examples go, Crawford could have done worse than his four-time All-Star father: Carl Crawford.

The younger Crawford eventually found comfort in doing things his own way, coming into his own as a player and blossoming into MLB Pipeline’s No. 13 Draft prospect. But let’s just say the 18-year-old’s scouting report sounds … familiar.

Crawford utilizes his elite speed on the bases and he runs down just about everything in the outfield. He has a contact-oriented left-handed stroke, but there’s some natural whip and power in his swing as well.

Like father, like son, after all?

“Well, we're very similar,” Crawford said, laughing. “It's kind of funny now because, without me trying, our games actually line up pretty similar. I think our speed is the obvious thing. We're both high-contact hitters that I think can close the gaps really well in the outfield.”

Crawford, a Louisiana State commit, figures to be a first-round pick in this year’s Draft after an excellent senior season at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, the same program that produced Joey Gallo, Paul Sewald and Top 100 prospect Austin Wells, among others. If there’s one major difference between Crawford and his father at the same age, he pinpointed it.

“Where our games are different, I think I'm a little more polished than my dad was,” Crawford said in a phone interview. “I think my dad was more of a pure athlete who was really gifted. I think I'm more of kind of like a player where I'm more of a student of the game.”

When Carl was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 1999 Draft, he was indeed a raw athlete. He could have pursued opportunities to be a point guard or an option quarterback in college, but instead chose to refine his skills as an outfielder.

Justin, on the other hand, gave up football around the fifth grade, played basketball through the eighth grade then focused solely on baseball in high school. This is the sport he’s always loved. And why wouldn’t he? He was born a few months after Carl finished his first full season in the Majors, so the game has always been a big part of his life.

Crawford remembers throwing out a first pitch at Tropicana Field as a kid. Every summer, he’d spend two-week stretches going to work with Carl. He loved getting to be around Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Carlos Peña in the Rays clubhouse, David Ortiz and son D’Angelo in Boston and guys like Joc Pederson and Dee Strange-Gordon -- two players he’s still in touch with -- during his dad’s time with the Dodgers.

A 3-year-old Justin joined Carl when Tampa Bay played at Chase Field, for instance, with the toddler Crawford carrying around a bat and taking left-handed swings. Even then, his dad saw a future star.

“Definitely,” Carl said on June 18, 2007, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s my son.”

“Just being a little kid in that atmosphere, seeing that, is definitely one of the reasons that helped me fall in love with the game so much,” Crawford said. “Being able to watch what they would do -- not just my dad, but watching different players -- I think that just really emphasized even more how much you really have to be dedicated to doing this and how much you really have to love the game.

“From growing up in there and seeing just a different atmosphere and the way different players worked, I think that's just what made me really just love the game of baseball even more and made it where it was like, this is something I really want to try to do.”

You won’t find a bigger believer in Crawford than Gino DiMaria, his high school coach. DiMaria described both Crawford's swing and speed as “unbelievable.” He was a leadoff hitter who led by example, DiMaria said, with a “very high” baseball IQ reflective of someone who grew up around the game. That didn’t necessarily surprise DiMaria, though, after his first meeting with Crawford and his mom.

When Crawford transferred to Bishop Gorman, DiMaria had a simple question: “Are you good?”

“His mom goes, 'Well, he better be good.' And I say, 'Why is that?' She goes, 'Because his dad played in the Major Leagues,’” DiMaria remembered. “I say, 'Who's his dad?' And they say, 'Carl Crawford.' And I go, 'Done.'”

Crawford has handled the pressure of being a potential star, not to mention the son of a guy with Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards at home, as well as possible. Crawford said he has heeded some of his father’s best advice to help with that: “Just enjoy it. Don’t get too tense and try to change anything or try to do too much.”

“He's the first person that I actually emotionally got broken down [about when he graduated], because I will never have the grace of coaching somebody like him again,” DiMaria said. “We haven't even seen the best of him yet. He has a lot more to offer, and that's what I'm excited about.”