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May 06, 2015

Phillies' top prospect J.P. Crawford homers in season debut

The Phillies' top-ranked prospect, shortstop J.P Crawford, returned to action Wednesday with the Clearwater Threshers (A). The 20-year-old, sidelined since spring training with an oblique injury, wasted no time showing everyone why he's considered the best player in the organization's farm system.

Crawford went 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBI to help lift the Threshers to a 7-3 win over the Brevard County Manatees.

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It didn't take long for the left-handed hitter to get back into the swing of things as he singled to right in his first at-bat off Manatees right-handed starter Jorge Ortega in the first inning. Two frames later, after having fouled off several pitches from Ortega, he connected on a fastball for a two-run homer tro right -- his first since long ball since he went deep twice on Aug. 24 with Clearwater last year. The shot broke a scoreless tie.

"I felt really good and was just really excited to be back," he said. "In that first inning, I was just trying to get a spark going, and once that happened I was set. I wanted to get some good results today, and I got them."

Crawford walked and scored in the fifth and reached again in the eighth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, giving him his third RBI of the day, one short of his career high for the category.  []

After hitting .275/.352/.407 (with 8 home runs, 7 doubles, 32 runs, and 29 RBI) in 63 games in high-A Clearwater* last season, Crawford was expected to move on to double-A Reading this summer, but that was before the injury.

*Crawford also played 60 games last season with single-A Lakewood, where he hit .295/.398/.405 with 3 home runs, 16 doubles, 37 runs and 19 RBI.

"It's up to them," Crawford told Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm just going to go out there and not worry about that stuff. I'm just going to go out there every day, play my hardest, do what I do and whatever happens, happens."

He'll likely still make his way north at some point this season, and if he keeps this up, it'll be sooner rather than later.

Amaro scouting in Braves country

Also of note, Ruben Amaro was reportedly checking out the Georgia high school baseball playoffs on Wednesday, presumably to see Kennesaw Mountain High catcher and Georgia Tech recruit Tyler Stephenson, who is predicted to go in the first round of this summer's draft.

Here's what Teddy Cahill and Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America had to say of Stephenson after watching him play this past weekend:

With a thick lower half and wide shoulders, Stephenson’s game is built around the power in his core. The Georgia Tech commit showed a plus throwing arm and advanced receiving skills on Friday. Stephenson is a little flat-footed behind the plate, but he remains agile, and he showed the ability to catch the ball cleanly when thrown high or deep into the lefthanded batters’ box.

Offensively, Stephenson generates plus bat speed with a relatively short rotational swing. He starts with a leg kick before landing with a wide base. Stephenson drove well with his hips, but there is room for even more separation. His bat is in the zone for quite a while, with his swing plane looking like a sideways parenthesis. Stephenson finished way ahead of a pitch in his first at-bat, and hammered it hard into the ground and through the left side.  []

Here's a look at Stephenson's profile: 

[Speaking of prospects, I wrote earlier Wednesday about the Phillies being the favorite to land outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, the top international prospect that will be available for teams to sign as free agents this summer.]