Sunday, April 16, 2017

Crawford and Thompson off to weak starts in 2017

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
One of the primary stories out of the Phillies developmental levels in the early going this season is the weak offensive production of minor league shortstop J.P. Crawford and two poor outings from promising hurler Jake Thompson.

Crawford, the organization's first round draft choice in 2013, is among the youngest players in the Triple-A International League, at 22 years old. Through 10 games for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the talented lefty batter sports a .086 average with a triple and one RBI.

Thompson, who was a significant part of the return from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, has been alarmingly ineffective in two starts for Lehigh Valley. In both outings he has lasted just 2 1/3 innings, while allowing nine earned runs on opening night and being tagged for six earned runs in his second game. In 4 2/3 total innings, the 23-year-old has allowed 15 hits and three walks while striking out three.

Entering the season, Crawford was widely ranked by nearly all outlets offering such rankings as the Phillies' top prospect. The six-foot-two 180-pounder has posted capable numbers at all levels (OPS'ing at a combined .774) until reaching Lehigh Valley last summer. A season ago, Thompson, who was originally a 2nd round draft pick of the Tigers in 2012, was exceptional for the IronPigs (2.50 ERA in 21 starts) and earned a promotion to the big leagues. In 10 starts at the top level of the sport, the six-foot-four 235-pound right-hander tallied a 3-6 record with a 5.70 ERA.

Jake Thompson, image- Jay Floyd
Despite the small sample size involved with this year's slumps, some fans seems to be in a panic about the duo that had long seemed to be key pieces of the Phils' rebuild.

Rest assured, gang, it's not a sign of things to come for either man.

This argument may be more appropriate for players with longer track records than Thompson and Crawford, but, because these players have posted such consistent numbers in the past, it's not crazy to expect that their statistics will get to a more typical place for each of them.  And imagine just how exciting it will be and what type of production is in order for Thompson get his ERA down toward his career 3.05 mark he had entering the season. The same applies for Crawford's impending efforts to get his average back to the .278 he tallied in four professional season prior to this one.

So, don't fret, Phillies fans, when it comes to these two top prospects. They will bounce back and the rebound is going to be glorious.  Take the advice that is commonly given to a player that may be struggling...be patient.

On the other side of things, some top performers in the Phils' minor league ranks include the organization's top catching prospect and a threesome of remarkable second basemen among others.

With Lehigh Valley backstop Jorge Alfaro hit safely in eight of his first nine games. The 23-year-old Colombian is batting .361 with a double, a triple, a home run and five RBI thus far for the IronPigs in nine contests.  Alfaro was also part of the return for Hamels from Texas.

Switch-hitting second baseman Jesmuel Valentin has continued his hot 2017 into the International League regular season. In 10 games, the 22-year-old sports a .355 batting average with a double and five RBI with the IronPigs. The son of former big league Jose Valentin was excellent in the Grapefruit League for the big league Phillies this spring as well, batting .366 in 21 games.

Also for Lehigh Valley, powerful first baseman Rhys Hoskins has enjoyed success, posting an impressive .324/.452/.676 slash line in 11 games.  The 24-year-old righty hitter had a tremendous campaign last year at the Double-A level where he batted .281, launched 38 homers and drove in 116 runs.  Hoskins was a 5th round draft choice in 2014.

With Double-A Reading, right-handed hitting second baseman Scott Kingery, the Phillies' 2nd round pick in 2015, is batting .313 with four homers, 12 RBI and three steals through nine games.  The 22-year-old spent time last off-season playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

For Class A Lakewood second baseman Daniel Brito is off to a strong start as well, looking like a catalyst at the top of the BlueClaws' batting order.  In 11 games the lefty-batting Venezuela native has a .370 average with three home runs, eight RBI and three stolen bases.  The 19-year-old is getting his first taste of full-season ball, after playing the past two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League respectively.

For Class A Advanced Clearwater, starting pitcher Alberto Tirado has not allowed a run in two starts (12 innings pitched), notching a 1-0 record for the Threshers.  Tirado, a 22-year-old righty, was acquired from Toronto in a trade for Ben Revere in 2015.

Also for the Threshers, local reliever Jeff Singer has tossed four scoreless appearances, recording a win and three saves in the process.  The 23-year-old lefty is a Rutgers-Camden product and a Philadelphia native.
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