No. 4 prospect Crawford elevating to new heights at High-A

June 10th, 2024

has long been known for his elite bat-to-ball skills. The Phillies' No. 4 prospect became a 2022 first-round pick largely on the strength of his blazing speed and impressive bat control, although he hadn't been able to fully capitalize on his hard contact as a pro.

Crawford had been routinely hitting the ball on the ground, but he's been making adjustments with the assistance of the High-A Jersey Shore coaching staff. Now utilizing a more upright stance, he's elevated the ball more lately and that effort has paid immediate dividends.

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The 20-year-old outfielder crushed his fourth homer of the season -- passing last year's total just a third of the way into the campaign -- as part of a four-hit effort en route to the BlueClaws' 18-5 rout of Greensboro at First National Bank Field on Sunday. It marked his fourth straight game with multiple hits that included a double.

"He's tall, he's lanky, he's got a lot of body to work with," Jersey Shore manager Greg Brodzinski said. "It was pretty much simplifying what he already does really well and standing him up a little bit in the batter's box. That plays pretty easily. He's a guy that's really adaptable. When you're coaching him, it's amazing how well he can take in information and then go ahead and do it, whether it's a drill, whether it's working in the outfield, whether it's something in terms of his baseball 101 stuff."

Of course, it's worth noting MLB's No. 62 overall prospect, can thrive by hitting the ball on the ground. Much like his four-time All-Star father Carl Crawford, Justin's 75-grade speed enables him to beat two-hoppers to the left side or balls up the middle for infield singles. But his ground-ball numbers for his first two seasons were extreme.

Among qualified hitters in the Majors this season, Yandy Díaz has the highest ground-ball rate at 57.3 percent. In 16 Minor League games after signing in 2022, Crawford's rate sat at 62.5 percent, and that ballooned to nearly 70 percent in 2023.

Crawford's rate has been much more manageable in 2024, dropping to 59.5 percent on Sunday after all four of his hits came on line drives or fly balls to the opposite field.

The left-handed hitter showed off his strength in the first inning by lining a double off the left-field wall. In the third, Crawford followed that up by dropping a fly ball into left for a single and promptly stole second base so easily that the catcher didn't muster a throw. Leading off the fifth, he lasered a liner past third base before launching a three-run rocket over the left-field fence in the sixth.

"He's a guy that, I think, when he does get to the big leagues, could be a 15-20 home run guy," Brodzinski said. "When you watch him in batting practice, you see the power that he has when he's able to unlock it. That's something for a lot of guys that comes with age and experience and getting at-bats. … So we push him in the right direction, and with a slight adjustment, the ball is going to start being elevated a little bit more, especially to the pull side. ... But he'll always have that speed in his bag when he does hit a ground ball."

With his hot hitting over his past four games, Crawford raised his OPS by 67 points to .765. He already ranks sixth in the South Atlantic League in hits (58), runs (35) and stolen bases (20), but the Phillies believe he'll be able to tap into even more offensive potential down the road.