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Kapler impressed with young Phils' leadership

New manager connecting with Hoskins, Crawford during offseason
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- So, J.P. Crawford, what do you and your teammates need?

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked Crawford that question upon meeting him for dinner a few weeks ago in Long Beach, Calif. Kapler has talked a lot about building an environment that makes his players the best versions of themselves, so it made sense that he wanted Crawford's input on how he could make that happen.

PHILADELPHIA -- So, J.P. Crawford, what do you and your teammates need?

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler asked Crawford that question upon meeting him for dinner a few weeks ago in Long Beach, Calif. Kapler has talked a lot about building an environment that makes his players the best versions of themselves, so it made sense that he wanted Crawford's input on how he could make that happen.

"Some loud speakers in the clubhouse," Crawford replied.

The Phillies have been using Freddy Galvis' personal stereo to play music following victories at Citizens Bank Park. In previous years, they used Jimmy Rollins' system. Of course, Rollins' stereo got used more. The Phillies won a National League-best 246 games at home from 2007-11, during which they also won the '08 World Series, two National League pennants and five NL East titles. They have won an NL-worst 193 games at home over the past five seasons.

But the Phillies plan to win more in the coming years, so perhaps an upgraded sound system would be a nice investment.

"By asking that, I know he's going to be a player's manager," Crawford said. "That'll go over very well with us."

Video: LAD@PHI: Crawford rips a triple to right-center field

Kapler is trying to connect with other players. He also had dinner with Rhys Hoskins on Friday night in Philadelphia. Kapler, Hoskins and Crawford attended the organization's Christmas tree lighting outside the ballpark on Saturday evening.

Kapler, Hoskins and Crawford could be the faces of the organization in the coming years. Hoskins hit .259 with 18 home runs, 48 RBIs and a 1.014 OPS in just 50 games. He played so well that he finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Crawford is the No. 53 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. He hit .214 with a .356 on-base percentage in 23 games in September. He impressed defensively, and he could be the everyday shortstop if Galvis is traded. If not, Crawford will be on the 25-man roster.

"Both of those guys blew me away," Kapler said about his dinners with Crawford and Hoskins. "Those were, 'Wow!' Both of them. Incredible leadership characteristics. What's easy to see is that people will follow them. People will want to be like those guys. And what's easy to see is that they are going to make really healthy choices. They're going to make the right choices along the way. That's evident and clear."

Kapler should have few choices to make about Hoskins. He will be the primary first baseman, although he could see an occasional start in left field. But Kapler certainly sees a positive presence in the clubhouse.

"I walked away from that dinner saying, 'This guy can lead now,'" Kapler said. "He doesn't need any more success. It's not about being the veteran guy. That's not what it's about. He is a leader by example, by the way he carries himself, by the way he thinks and by the way he talks. And it doesn't have to be vocal 'rah-rah' in front of the group. It's a very unique package, one that I'm not sure I've ever seen."

Video: Todd Zolecki breaks down Hoskins' incredible callup

One of Kapler's first challenges in maintaining a positive environment could come early next season, if Galvis, Crawford, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco open on the 25-man roster. (And especially if Triple-A prospect Scott Kingery earns an early-season promotion.)

Can Kapler keep everybody happy? It is one thing to rotate infielders for one month, like the Phillies did in September. It is another to rotate infielders for six.

"It's not just a challenge, it's a blessing," Kapler said. "It's a gift to the Phillies, it's a gift to the players, it's a gift to the manager. … Giving them the best possible matchups. And the awesome part of this is, guys, at the end of the day you're going to look up and your numbers are going to be better because we move puzzle pieces around to keep you the healthiest, strongest version of yourself and to match you up against guys you're most likely to have success against."

And if there are issues, Crawford got the impression that it would be OK to go into the manager's office to express those concerns.

"I think we'll be able to talk to him and not have to worry about saying something wrong or worry about messing up," Crawford said. "I feel like he's going to understand. He's been through it. A real cool guy, I like him. I think he's to be a great manager here with all the young guys. We're going to work well together."

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.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies, J.P. Crawford, Rhys Hoskins