John Paul Crawford was born on January 11, 1995 in Lakewood, California to Larry and Beth Crawford; he has two sisters. Larry, a former professional Canadian football defensive end, was a four-time All-Star in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and won the Grey Cup with the BC Lions in the 1980s, while Crawford's mother played collegiate volleyball. Crawford's cousin, Carl Crawford, played in Major League Baseball. His older sister Eliza, a softball phenom for California State University, Fullerton, brought the young Crawford with her to batting practices and encouraged him in his pursuits. Thereafter, Crawford became highly involved in baseball programs for urban youth in nearby Compton, including the Urban Youth Academy and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities.
In 2009, Crawford began attending Lakewood High School. The school's head baseball coach Spud O'Neil recalled Crawford "was 6-2 and skinny as a rail" but recognized his flair defensively, and immediately accomandated the freshman by opening a spot at shortstop -- Crawford's natural position. Crawford posted several team records; by the end of his senior year, he lead in career hits (179), runs scored (162), stolen bases (73) and walks (72). His talents drew the attention of the University of Southern California (USC) who offered Crawford an athletic scholarship to attend and play college baseball for the Trojans. As anticipated, however, Crawford declined the offer and elected to partake in the 2013 MLB draft.
In 2011, during Crawford's junior year, he was evaluated by Marti Wolever, the assistant general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. The circumstances of Crawford's discovery by the Phillies are inadvertent; by Wolever's account, he first watched the shortstop while scouting another Lakewood prospect, pitcher Shane Watson, who the Phillies selected with their first-round draft pick in 2012. Wolever stated in 2012 "I thought he [Crawford] was one of the best players we saw last year", and anticipated that the prospect would be ready for the major leagues in three or four years. The Phillies selected Crawford in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft, 16th overall, and he signed his first professional baseball contract on June 18, worth $2.30 million.
The Phillies had high expectations for Crawford—expectations significantly profound that the organization envisioned the prospect as the eventual long-term replacement for veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Crawford made his first appearance as a professional ballplayer with the Gulf Coast Phillies of the Gulf Coast League (GCL) in Clearwater, Florida. Once the regular season began, he adjusted well to professional baseball and behind the plate; in 39 games with the GCL Phillies, Crawford lead the league in both batting average (.345) and on-base percentage (.443), earning him a promotion to the Single-A Lakewood BlueClaws. Returning to Lakewood in 2014, there was attention focused on Crawford for his improved plate disclipline, as he nearly finished the season, shared with a promotion to the Clearwater Threshers, with a 1-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio. Crawford became the fixture of the Phillies' farm system, the team's number one prospect according to Baseball America for the rest of his assent through the minor leagues.
In 2015, Crawford's season was cut short by his first significant injury—a torn ligament in his left thumb. Playing just 104 games, between Clearwater and the Double-A Reading Phils, he finished with a .288 BA, six home runs, 42 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Crawford kept up his efforts to develope his power numbers in 2016 but by early 2017, with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Crawford scrambled to produce hits, batting just .175 with one home run at the end of May. Over his next 60 games Crawford returned to regular form, posting a .272 BA and 12 home runs—a career high. With the Phillies' shortstop position firmly entrenched by Freddy Galvis, Crawford began starting at third base on August 20 to prepare to share time with Maikel Franco, who struggled throughout his fourth season in the majors.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin expressed interest in Crawford, hoping the prospect could play substantially before the end of the regular season. During a Phillies road trip, Crawford was promoted to the major leagues on September 5, 2017 to join the team in time for the second game in a three-game series against the New York Mets. Playing at third base, in his MLB debut Crawford went 1-for-5, hitting into a fielder's choice in his first at-bat, before singling to center field in the fifth inning; the Phillies won the game 9–1.