There are some prospects who possesses a bat so good that an organization will try them anywhere across the diamond in order to find a spot. The St. Louis Cardinals have such a prospect in Allen Craig, who has played all over the infield as well as being tested in the outfield.
He’s seen minimal time at SS and 2B and there is no chance that a hole opens up at 1B courtesy of Albert Pujols. He has spent the majority of his time at 3B, though his long-term potential there is minimal despite the team’s potential need. As Baseball America recently said:
“His lack of range and arm strength, plus a quirky throwing motion, work against him at the hot corner.”
Hence the decision to transition him to the outfield, where, depending on the offseason moves of the team, could see an opening. Remember, the team had four potential outfielders in 2009, but two of them, Matt Holliday and Rick Ankiel, are free agents with no guarantee that either will return.
If he continues to hit the way he has, they will be forced to give him an opportunity, one way or another.
Allen spent the entire 2009 season at Triple-A, where he posted the following statistics:
472 At Bats
.322 Batting Average (152 Hits)
26 Home Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.374 On Base Percentage
.547 Slugging Percentage
.359 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Obviously the BABIP is a bit unrealistic, but he’s posted usable averages in previous years that go along with repeatable numbers. Look no further than his .304 average in 2008 at Double-A that came courtesy of a .332 BABIP.
He has displayed a solid eye at the plate, striking out 20.1% of the time in ’09 (and 17.2% in ’08). While it would be expected that he regresses some once getting promoted to the Majors, he’s not likely to be at a range that cannot be offset. Unless he seriously falls off a cliff with his eye at the plate, he should be able to post an average around .280, at worst.
The power is extremely for real, as he’s hit at every level:
- 2007: 24 HR between Single & Double-A
- 2008: 22 HR at Double-A
- 2009: 26 HR at Triple-A
As Baseball America says, “Craig has a level swing with good torque and bat speed. He generates the best and most consistent power”. They also dubbed him the best power hitter in the organization.
Not only that, he delivered when his team needed him most. As Erick Mack of CBS Sports says, “He put his Triple-A team on his back down the stretch, too, getting hits in 40 of the final 46 games en route to the playoffs. In the second half alone, Craig went an eye-opening .405-18-51-47-2 (.449-.764)”
Those are some mighty impressive numbers, especially when you consider the level of competition, and at 25-years old, what does the 2008 8th Round draft pick have left to prove? If the Cardinals aren’t going to have a spot for him (alongside Colby Rasmus & Ryan Ludwick), they certainly could trade him to help acquire a necessary piece to the puzzle.
One way or another he deserves a chance in the Majors and should be on your fantasy radar. If he does get an opportunity to play everyday he should approach 25 HR, as he has at every other level of professional baseball. Couple that with a solid average and good approach at the plate and he easily could prove usable in all formats.
What are your thoughts? How good do you think Craig could be? Is he someone that you are keeping an eye on?
You can read other recent Prospect Reports including: