If you want to get the manager and coaches at triple-A Lehigh Valley excited these days, all you have to do is mention J.P. Crawford. In fact, IronPigs hitting instructor Sal Rende gushed about Crawford earlier this week without even being asked.
"Well, he has made an adjustment with his hands," Rende said. "They're closer to his body and lower. He has caught on, and his bat speed has picked up. He's driving the heck out of the ball."
The lefthanded-hitting shortstop was batting .175 with one home run, four extra-base hits, and a .511 OPS through 42 games on May 25. In his next 60 games before Thursday, he hit .272 with 12 doubles, five triples, and 12 home runs. Crawford's on-base percentage, always a strength of his game, was .381 during that span, and his OPS was .912.
"There have been times in the past when I've seen him be a little too passive when he gets into a good count," Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan said. "We all know he can get into a hitter's count better than most guys, and I think he had a tendency to take the next pitch, go from 2-0 to 2-1, and it's no big deal. But that might have been the pitch that he could do some damage with. I think he's doing that right now."
Something for the Phillies to think about as Maikel Franco struggles at the big-league level: Could Crawford or Lehigh Valley second baseman Scott Kingery make the move to third base?
Spencer Howard and Connor Seabold, the Phillies' second- and third-round picks in the June draft, will both be starting pitchers next season, but this season at rookie-league Williamsport, the two righthanders have pitched on the same day. Howard is 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA in six starts, and director of player development Joe Jordan believes that Phillies instructors have seen some things they can help him with during the instructional league next month in Clearwater, Fla. Seabold has allowed just five hits, one walk, and one run while striking out 13 in 10 innings of relief. … Jordan has also been impressed by this year's fifth-round pick, Ethan Lindow, and eighth-round choice Jhordany Mezquita, both of whom are lefthanded pitchers. Lindow has a 1.80 ERA and has struck out 17 batters in 10 innings in the Gulf Coast League. Mezquita has a 1.25 ERA and has struck out 23, allowing just 10 hits in 21 2/3 innings in the GCL.
The first-round pick in this year's draft went 6-for-48 in a 12-game stretch that dropped his average from .368 to .242 at Williamsport, but he rebounded by hitting .417 (15-for-36) during a nine-game hitting streak that ended Thursday.