PHILADELPHIA -- J.P. Crawford, the No. 61 overall prospect per MLBPipeline.com, is still learning to play third base at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in an effort to get him more playing time next month in the big leagues.Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday that Crawford's future remains at shortstop, but what
PHILADELPHIA -- J.P. Crawford, the No. 61 overall prospect per MLBPipeline.com, is still learning to play third base at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in an effort to get him more playing time next month in the big leagues.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday that Crawford's future remains at shortstop, but what if Crawford handles himself well at third base? Is it possible he could open next season as the team's third baseman, considering Maikel Franco's struggles this year? Franco entered Tuesday with a .666 OPS, which ranked 22nd in baseball among 23 qualified third baseman -- 74 points lower than Nicholas Castellanos, who is 21st.
Franco's -0.6 WAR also is 147th out of 153 players, according to FanGraphs.
"Honestly, the J.P. move to third has very little to do with Franco and more to do with J.P. and increasing his versatility," Klentak said. "He is all of two games into it, so it's a little premature to speculate on the long-term implications and how that might impact next year's club or beyond. But right now, we still have a lot of confidence in Maikel for all the reasons we've talked about this year and are continuing to allow him to play. He's still young. He still has a lot of talent and a lot of tools. We want to still play that out."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin also has made it clear that he wants to try to start Freddy Galvis all 162 games at shortstop, so having Crawford play third is another way to get him more playing time.
"J.P. with his athleticism, arm strength, his general skill set -- we feel like he's a candidate to play all over the field," Klentak said. "He's playing third now. I would expect he'll probably get some time at second, just to put him in a position to contribute at the Major League level, if that's the way we go in September.
"This is not a permanent move for J.P. by any stretch, but it's an opportunity for him to expand his skill set and hopefully find a path to the big leagues."
Mackanin defends Neris
Mackanin expressed surprise and disappointment at comments Monday by Giants manager Bruce Bochy about reliever Hector Neris.
Bochy called Neris an "idiot" for hitting Buster Posey with a pitch in the eighth inning on Sunday at AT&T Park. It put the tying run at second base and the go-ahead run at first. Posey first accused Neris of throwing intentionally at him Sunday, saying Neris figured he could not get him out.
Neris denied he threw at Posey intentionally, especially in that situation with the game on the line. Posey's and Bochy's comments generated more than a few eye rolls in the Phillies' clubhouse.
"I'm surprised [Bochy] said that," Mackanin said. "I didn't think that was a very nice thing to say for an opposing player. I like Neris. He's not an idiot. He's a good guy. If I knew for a fact that he threw at him intentionally, I wouldn't have been real happy with it. It doesn't make sense. That being said, in my opinion, there's no way he'd do that. I don't think Bochy should have said that."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.