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For J.P. Crawford, Futures Game was a big deal
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When J.P. Crawford embarked on his pro career with the Phillies last summer he hoped to one day be selected to play in Major League Baseball’s Futures Game.

And why not?

The Futures Game is one of the kick-off events of baseball’s annual All-Star festivities. It’s a chance to get away from the daily grind of the minor-league season and rub elbows with the most elite minor-league prospects in the game.

It’s a big deal.

Crawford made it to this year’s Futures Game just 13 months after the Phillies selected him in the first round (16th overall) of the 2013 draft out of Lakewood High School in Southern California.

At 19, he was the youngest position player at the event. 

“I didn’t think I’d be here in my first [full] year,” Crawford said at Target Field, the outstanding downtown ballpark that hosted Sunday’s Futures Game and will be the scene of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

“I thought maybe I’d get here in two or three years. It came a lot faster than I planned.

“When I got the news I was coming, my stomach dropped. It’s all future big leaguers in the next year or two, and for me to be here in my first year is a great honor.”

Crawford should not sell himself short. It’s not out of the question that he could get to the big leagues in a couple of years. Heck, Jimmy Rollins was just 21 he arrived in the majors. Rollins has an option in his contract for 2015. Who knows what happens after that? Maybe Rollins will still be around. Maybe the Phillies employ Freddy Galvis as a stopgap. The bottom line is Crawford lines up to be this franchise’s shortstop of the future. The team confirmed as much last month when it promoted Crawford from the South Atlantic League to the Florida State League -- a quick progression for a kid just a year out of high school -- and in a tandem move converted Roman Quinn from shortstop to center field.

If all goes well, Crawford and Quinn will be providing up-the-middle strength for the Phillies for many years. 

“Me and him were always battling [at shortstop],” Crawford said. “We’re also close friends. To finally be on the same team together and in the 1- and 2-spots in the lineup -- it’s going to be fun.

“Roman loves it out there in center field. It’s like letting an animal free, just let him use his legs.”

Crawford believes he could be ready for Philadelphia in a couple of years.

“Hopefully in the next two years I’ll be up there, if all goes as planned,” he said.

Crawford will need to stay healthy and stay on his quick development track for that to happen.

“He makes the game look easy both ways,” said a rival scout who has seen a lot of Crawford. “He has a great contact approach at the plate with power to come down the line. He’s very relaxed and poised on defense. All the tools are there.”

Crawford showed off his tools Sunday. He made two nice plays at shortstop, including a quick turn of a double play. He singled in the sixth inning, stole second and scored on Joey Gallo’s two-run home run as the U.S. team beat the World team, 3-2.

Crawford is a left-handed hitter with a rangy, 6-foot-2, 185-pound build. He hit .295 with three homers, 19 RBIs and a .398 on-base percentage in 60 games at low A Lakewood this season. He played in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game last month before moving to Clearwater of the more advanced Florida State League. To put things in perspective, pitcher Aaron Nola, the Phils’ top pick in this year’s draft, is at Clearwater. He pitched at LSU in the rugged Southeastern Conference for three seasons. Crawford got there a year out of high school.

Nola should be another from that club to one day provide up-the-middle strength for the Phillies.

“Oh, man, that guy’s a go-getter,” Crawford said. “He’s really good. He knows how to locate. He’s a lot more experienced than a lot of other pitchers who just came out of high school or college.

“He’s lights out.”

Facing more experienced pitchers led to a slow start in the FSL for Crawford, but he has hits in each of his last nine games to raise his average to .235. He has four homers and eight RBIs in 21 games.

Crawford is happy with his decision to pass on a scholarship to USC and sign with the Phillies for $2.23 million.

“Definitely,” he said. “It’s been great. Living on your own, not having to worry about any school or any problems back home. You wake up and play baseball. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”