There are certain high schools that come to mind when the term sports "factory" is employed. Football has Long Beach Poly and St. Thomas Aquinas. Basketball has DeMatha and baseball has a slew of schools in Texas and Mater Dei. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a school turning out baseball talent with the regularity of Lakewood High School outside of Los Angeles, California.
The string of Lakewood players making their way to professional baseball continued June 6 with the Philadelphia Phillies' selection of shortstop J.P. Crawford with the 16th pick of the first round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft. It's the second consecutive year the Phillies have taken a player from Lakewood with their first pick.
Listed at 6'2", 175 pounds, Crawford throws right and bats left. He's described on several sites as a free swinger but has his school's all-time record in walks. He also holds school marks in hits (179), runs scored (162) and stolen bases (73).
Looking at video of Crawford you immediately see soft hands and the potential for a slick-fielding, successful defensive career. High school shortstops are considered a risk high in the draft, which may be why Crawford fell to the Phillies, but a term you hear repeatedly about Crawford is "stick." No, not his offensive weapon, but the belief that he has the ability to stay a shortstop and be productive at the highest level.
At the plate, Crawford looks like he can hit to all fields with moderate gap power that could improve as he fills out over the next couple of years. He has a tendency to be a front foot hitter, his weight transferring ahead of his bat. I imagine the Phillies organization will work on evening out that weight displacement.
When I say Crawford will likely fill out, there's a pedigree to back it up. His father, Larry, was a standout defensive back in the Canadian Football League for 9 seasons. His cousin, Carl, plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the right workout regiment, you could be looking at a 6'2", 210 pound athletic shortstop in a few seasons.
Of course, much of the amateur baseball draft is conjecture, but work ethic is said to be a strength of Crawford. With four tools and the desire to sharpen them, the Phillies could be looking at their shortstop of the future. Jimmy Rollins has another year left on his contract, and still performs at an above average level when compared with all other major-league shortstops. If Rollins continues to offer All-Star caliber defense and the ability to be a run producer, adding another year or two to his deal becomes a viable option if Crawford looks to be the real deal.
The addition of Crawford raises the question of what to do with 20-year old Roman Quinn, the 2011 2nd round pick currently playing for the Single A Lakewood Blue Claws. In fact, with Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Quinn and Crawford, the Phillies may find themselves with a stockpile of young middle infielders to usher in the next era of Philadelphia baseball.
As for Lakewood High School, they just keep turning out talent. Visiting the school's baseball website, you'll see the professional baseball cards of 44 players drafted since 1970, many of whom played in the big leagues.
J.P. Crawford makes it 45.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer who has covered the Phillies for more than three years and followed the team since long before Damion Easley played at Lakewood HS. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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