Draft : : Prospect Scouting Reports
Monday, January 21, 2013

Draft Focus: J.P. Crawford

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game
Every weekday leading up to the 2013 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

J.P. Crawford Perfect Game profile

Position:  SS
Height:  6-2
Weight:  180
Bats/Throws:  L-R
Birthdate:  Jan. 11, 1995
High School:  Lakewood
City, State:  Lakewood, Calif.
Travel Team:  Yak Baseball West
Commitment:  Southern California
Projected Draft Round:  1

If the 2013 draft were held today, there is little doubt that Southern California shortstop John Paul Crawford would be picked in the first round. Perfect Game has the left-handed hitting 17-year old ranked as the top high school shortstop in the 2013 class and the fifth best overall prospect.

Crawford’s athletic resume is pretty flawless. A Perfect Game All-American, he has 6.7 speed in the 60 and plays even faster than that in game action. Crawford’s arm strength has improved significantly in the last year and he now throws 90 mph across the infield and 91 mph off the mound. With a lithe and athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound build, he’s going to add strength to his already impressive bat speed as he matures physically. The potential of having a left handed hitting shortstop with the power to be a middle of the lineup run producer makes Crawford a rare commodity, there just aren’t many of those types in the Major Leagues.

In addition, Crawford’s family background adds even more to his resume. His father, Larry, played defensive back at Iowa State, and for nine years in the Canadian Football League, where he was a five-time all-star who intercepted 52 passes in his career. Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford is a cousin.

Despite all the talent and background on Crawford’s side, scouts from every Major League organization will be asking the same question between now and June. The question is one of the most common in the scouting industry to the point of being a worn cliché at times.

Most simply put, the question goes: “Is he going to be able to stay at shortstop?”

That question rarely dogs college shortstops and young Latin shortstops but comes right next to the 'SS' initials beside a high school shortstop’s name. It will be asked behind the backstop at every one of Crawford’s games this spring.

When you look at who plays shortstop in the Major Leagues, one has to admit it is a valid question and one that usually could and should be answered, 'no.' For the number of players who enter professional baseball as primary shortstops directly out of high school, the number that become big league regulars at that position is pointedly small.

The breakdown of the backgrounds of the 30 projected starting Major League shortstops according to mlbdepthcharts.com looks like this:

United States Colleges: 8
Dominican Republic: 8
United States High Schools: 4
Venezuela: 3
Cuba: 3
Nicaragua, Japan, Panama and Curacao: 1 each

(note: Andrelton Simmons of Curacao attended junior college in the US for one year.)

Some other high school shortstop facts:

Those four starting shortstops who entered professional baseball directly out of high school are Derek Jeter (38 years old), Jimmy Rollins (34), J.J. Hardy (30) and Ian Desmond (27).

There are 10 starting shortstops that are younger than Desmond, including a pair of 22-year old Dominicans in the Cubs Starlin Castro and the Brewers Jean Segura.

There have been 19 high school shortstops drafted in the first round since 2004, when Desmond was a third round pick of the then Montreal Expos. Those 19 players combined to play a grand total of 200 innings at shortstop in the Major Leagues in 2012, 197 of those by the Cardinals Peter Kozma. Others, such as Justin Upton, Trevor Plouffe, Mike Moustakas and Chris Nelson, have moved to other positions.

Does Crawford have the athletic tools and the defensive skills to join Jeter, Rollins, Hardy and Desmond and stay at shortstop? The Perfect Game staff thinks he does. You won’t find a much more athletic player than Crawford as far as balance and actions are concerned and the speed, quickness and arm strength all play at the position. And one thing that you see in common among those four big leaguers is that they are all well above average offensively for shortstops, especially for power. Crawford, as noted, should have the ability to develop into a potential impact player with the bat.

Crawford’s defensive actions are different from the other top high school shortstop in the 2013 draft class, Florida’s Oscar Mercado, something that scouting directors and national cross checkers are sure to note. Mercado has more of the 'classic' Latin middle infield actions than Crawford possesses, not surprisingly. That doesn’t make Mercado any more likely to stay at shortstop than Crawford, but it could be a generality that sticks in some evaluator’s minds.

The bottom line is that if you graded out Crawford as a center fielder or as a second baseman, he’d still be a first round draft pick due to his athleticism, balance of high level tools and his offensive potential. But if scouts are sold on his ability to stay at shortstop through his professional prime, that just adds more value to the already valuable package.

Perfect Game events attended:

    2011 California Underclass Showcase
    2011 WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2011 PG National Games - Class of 2013
    2011 Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass)
    2012 National Showcase
    2012 WWBA 2012 Grads or 18u National Championship
    2012 WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic Presented by Rawlings
    2012 WWBA World Championship

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