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Crawford enjoying resurgence after respite

MLB.com

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Sometimes, a break is all you need to clear your head, even if you're one of the most talented prospects in baseball. Especially if you're one of the most talented prospects in baseball.

J.P. Crawford, the Phillies' No. 1 prospect and a consensus top 10 prospect nationally for the past two seasons, sat for nine days between June 11-20 nursing a nagging groin injury. The nine days he spent off the field did more than just help heal a minor injury; it allowed him to step back and clean his mental palette after a rough start to the season.

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Sometimes, a break is all you need to clear your head, even if you're one of the most talented prospects in baseball. Especially if you're one of the most talented prospects in baseball.

J.P. Crawford, the Phillies' No. 1 prospect and a consensus top 10 prospect nationally for the past two seasons, sat for nine days between June 11-20 nursing a nagging groin injury. The nine days he spent off the field did more than just help heal a minor injury; it allowed him to step back and clean his mental palette after a rough start to the season.

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"It definitely cleared my head," Crawford said. "It's like a break. ... Just to clear my head, game-wise. I came back feeling comfortable.

"Finally, something clicked."

The numbers verify that claim. Since his return to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Crawford is hitting .286 with a .531 slugging percentage. Before the injury? He sported a .194 batting average and .252 slugging percentage. His post-injury batting average is 34 points higher than his pre-injury slugging percentage.

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Crawford has five doubles, two triples, and a homer (on Sunday night) in those 13 games back in the lineup. In his first 56 games, he had just four doubles, one triple and two homers. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is back on the right side of the ledger, too, with eight walks and seven strikeouts since returning -- compared to 36 walks and 42 strikeouts prior. His .212 batting average and .306 slugging percentage are season highs, while his .327 on-base percentage is one point shy.

Such a respite is common across all levels of the game, but, according to IronPigs manager Dusty Wathan, is often misunderstood and underappreciated.

"From the outside looking in, people don't realize how important stuff like that can be sometimes. An All-Star break, a little nagging injury where you sit out for four, five, six days, I think it can be an important thing," Wathan said.

Crawford was pressing, "struggling trying to do way too much at the plate" in his own words. The injury, and his situation, merited a slightly longer intermission.

"It lets you watch the game and sit back and not have to compete in the game every day, and it can make you realize how much you can contribute to a team while you're sitting over here," Wathan said Sunday afternoon.

Crawford has dealt with top-prospect fanfare since his first full season in pro ball in 2014. Still just 22, his story is all but written. Our hyperreactive culture, however, leads to boom-or-bust labels prematurely slapped on teenagers and unshakable comparisons made the moment they sign a Major League contract.

"I think sometimes our expectations for guys are too high," Wathan said. "Other people put expectations on people, and not only him, but they put these expectations on all these guys that are drafted right away and say, 'This guy is going to be the next this person or that person.'

"There's not a next Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Chooch, there's not a next. Those guys were them. Guys are going to go play their positions, but there's never going to be that. I think sometimes, the media, the fans, everybody wants a comparison and it's unfair at times."

For now, Crawford isn't trying to be Rollins. He's trying to return to being J.P. Crawford.

"I'm just trying to make it simple again," he said. "It was just trying to get that feel back, and it's been working."

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies