PHILADELPHIA -- J.P. Crawford is one step closer to the big leagues.
The Phillies announced Friday morning that they had promoted Crawford, who MLBPipeline.com considers the third-best prospect in baseball, from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Crawford hit .265 with eight doubles, three home runs, 13 RBIs and a .787 OPS in 166 plate appearances with Reading. He walked 30 times and struck out 21 times. He also stole five bases.
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"He's ready," Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said.
Coincidentally, Crawford homered Thursday night in his final game with Reading.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Crawford goes yard - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=714189183
"We looked at the box score and thought, 'Heck, let's send him to Triple-A,'" Jordan joked.
Of course, the reality is the organization had targeted May 20 for Crawford's promotion. Including last season, Crawford had 571 plate appearances with Reading, giving him a good test at that level. The timing also worked, as Reading finished a six-game road trip Thursday, and Lehigh Valley opens a three-game homestand Friday night against Toledo.
"J.P. has done just fine at Double-A," Jordan said. "We all believe he's going to be a really, really good player. I just think there comes a point in time -- and it's probably been like this for a little while -- he's had his eyes set on Allentown, and maybe to some degree it's been a distraction. But his work has been good.
"I like the idea of him being on that club, being on a little older roster, to some degree. Good influences in that clubhouse. It's fun. It's time to go."
The next question is: could Crawford join the Phillies before the end of the season? They entered Friday night's series opener against the Braves at 24-17, just a game out of first place in the National League East. Phils shortstop Freddy Galvis was hitting .238 with a .639 OPS in 157 plate appearances. His OPS ranks 19th out of 25 qualified shortstops, but his defense has been tremendous.
Galvis is fifth out of 29 qualified shortstop in Defensive Runs Above Average at 5.8, according to FanGraphs. This measures a player's defensive value relative to league average. It is not a stretch to think Galvis could move to second base to replace Cesar Hernandez, who has also posted a .639 OPS, when Crawford is ultimately promoted to the big leagues. Galvis played brilliantly at second base in 2012 and '13 in place of an injured Chase Utley.
"That's an organizational decision, and a lot of people will be involved in that," said Jordan, when asked about Crawford's presumed promotion to the big leagues. "There will be different challenges in Triple-A that you don't face at Double-A, just with the style of pitching and the veteran pitchers he's going to face. He needs to go experience that. I really believe that he's going to do well."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin got to do some work with Crawford in Spring Training and said Friday he thinks the shortstop "obviously has a lot of talent." Mackanin added he thought the Phillies' early success makes it easier to let players develop longer in the Minors.
"The fact that we're playing and winning makes it a lot easier to give them even more time," Mackanin said. "To me, there's no rush to get anybody up here right now as long as we're holding our own. I think it's in the best interest of our guys who could possibly help to get extra Minor League at-bats."
Crawford has performed well at every level so far. There is no reason to think he will not produce at Triple-A.
"He's a player that obviously is talked about a lot," Jordan said. "We're counting on him being a good Major League player for us at some point in the future. It's just a new challenge. We trust the guy. It's time for him to face another level."