The upside of Allen Craig

Minor league success doesn’t always equate to major league success.  There are plenty of stories about can’t miss prospects.  Instead of talking about them though, I want to talk about an 8th round, 256th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Allen Craig.  I saw Craig play in limited duty this year for the Cardinals.  In 114 AB’s, Craig had a .246 AVG, a .298 OBP, 4 HR’s, 18 RBI’s and an OPS of .710.

Craig has an odd stance, and a little bit of a wasted motion in it.  He points the bat head back toward the pitcher, and has to straighten and cock it at the same time.  It might be something he can compensate for, it might be something he can change a bit.  He also seems to stride a bit too much.  He looked easily fooled at times.  However, the Cardinals lack power in RF, and Craig seems to be the only real option to fix that, unless they trade for a proven power bat.  I am guessing that the Cardinals were going to roll the dice with Jon Jay and Craig in 2011, but maybe Craig should get the bulk of the time.

After looking at his minor league numbers more closely, I’ve come to have the opinion that Craig deserves a full time shot at RF in 2011.  It’s not just his numbers; it’s the fact that he hasn’t really had a hiccup from one level to the next in the minors.

Here are Craig’s complete minor league statistics:

YearLevelAB'sAVGOBPOPSHRRBI
2006A-175.257.325.725429
2007A+423.312.370.9002177
2007AA24.292.3201.07033
2008AA506.304.373.8672285
2009AAA472.322.374.9212683
2010AAA306.320.389.9381481

Craig made his debut in the majors this year with the Cardinals at age 25.  I could compare him to anyone, but I’ll use Matt Holliday, since Holliday is an outfielder who also got a late start in the majors, at age 24.  Here is Matt Holliday’s Baseball Cube page.  Craig seemed to be better across the board over Holliday in the minors.  I’m in no way saying that Craig is going to be the player Holliday is, but I would like to see him have a chance in 2011.  He’s never struggled in the minors, and 114 AB’s from 2010 is not enough to condemn him.  The main problem I see is that he’s only played a total of 8 games in the minors in RF.  Of his 44 games with the Cardinals in 2010, he spent 30 of them in RF without making an error.

So again, maybe Craig will never be more than a bench player with pop.  I’m not sure how the Cardinals feel about him.  It’s hard to project players from the minors to the majors.  From his minor league stats, Matt Holliday didn’t look like he’d turn out to be the player he is.  Maybe Craig will be able to adjust to pitchers in the majors, maybe not.  All I’m saying is that he’s made the adjustments necessary at every level so far, and I think his stats suggest he deserves more than 114 AB’s before declaring him as just a bench player or a bust.  The Cardinals have a need for power in RF, and Craig could be the cost controlled answer.

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