Prospect Profile: Rashad Crawford Slowly Rising to Prominence

The South Bend Cubs are currently hanging around the .500 mark and are just 3 1/2 games out of first place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. The Cubs have improved a lot in all areas of the game from the first half. The starting pitching has stabilized thanks to Michael Wagner and Tyler Thorpe; the bullpen is much improved with Ryan McNeil, Daniel Lewis, and Corbin Hoffner; certain batters have improved from the first half.

Some players — like Jeffrey Baez — have improved noticeably, while others just continue steadily climbing in their development. One of the players who has incrementally improved all year is outfielder Rashad Crawford.

Crawford was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2012 draft out of Mundy’s Mill High School in Clayton, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. The 21-year-old is 6’3” and 185 pounds and he bats left and throws right. One of the first things the Cubs did to change to his game was to turn him from a switch hitter into a purely left-handed hitter to take advantage of his speed.

Crawford’s rise to this point in the organization has been slow and steady. As a rookie in 2012, he appeared in only nine games and hit .167. In 2013, he played a full season of rookie ball, 42 games, and hit .210 with 10 stolen bases. However, the Cubs saw something they liked in that, despite his low batting average, Crawford was able to take walks. With the .210 average, he still had an OBP of .299.

In 2014, Crawford advanced to short-season Boise, and it was there we began to start to see a glimpse of the player he would become. Crawford hit .259 and played 70 games in centerfield. He first gained praise for his defense, but the offense still lagged behind at this point. 2015 has been an outstanding year for Crawford at South Bend, where he has mainly played center, with 16 games in left and four in right.

crawford 86Crawford’s greatest assets are his work ethic and speed. Add in the fact that he can play all three outfield spots and you can see why he could be a valuable player going forward. In June, he hit .339 and stole seven bases. In fact, Manager Jimmy Gonzalez has given Rashad the opportunity to steal anytime he wants. This green light also helped his confidence grow. He hit .305 in July and drove in 16 runs from the nine spot in the order.

Crawford is turning out to be one of my favorite prospects this year. He hasn’t really broken out in a big way but his production is noticeable. His versatility and hard work are ensuring that. He is currently at .292 on the season with 2 HRs and an impressive 37 RBIs from the bottom of the lineup.

In the outfield, Crawford is a natural centerfielder. He has great instincts, takes great routes to the ball, and sets up throws for his solid arm. Another great thing about this young man that he is still filling out his body. There’s plenty of room for him to add 15 or 20 pounds and not take away any of his speed or versatility. He could even add some power to his 6’3” frame. To date, he has 8 doubles and 3 triples out of his 78 hits.

Next year Crawford will start at Myrtle Beach. I think it’s going to be an important year for him for two reasons: One, it will be his fifth year in the organization and he’ll be a Rule 5 candidate at the end of the season; Two, I think next year is when he really breaks out. While he was used in the number nine spot this year, I think he could be a top-of-the-order hitter, either first or second. From that spot he could either be someone who gets on base for someone else to drive-in, or the type of guy who can move runners over and be a great number two hitter.

What I really like about this kid is that he’s worked hard to improve himself at every step in the process and he is versatile at the plate and in the field. He’s risen slowly to this point and he’s now in consideration to move onto the organization’s top prospect lists next season. At a minimum, he will be someone to keep an eye on the rest of this year and into next.

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