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The Hot Corner - Player Profiles: Allen Craig

Allen Craig was one of the Cardinals' most exciting prospects before being called up to St. Louis in 2010. Allen was born in 1984 in Mission Viejo, California. He attended high school in Cali and then went to the University of California for college. After playing NCAA level baseball, Craig was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2006 amateur draft in the 8th round.

Fast forward to the present... In the case that David Freese re-injures himself, and since Berkman was signed to start in right field, the Cardinals are going to give Allen Craig a look at third base this spring. So what can we expect of this? We can at least expect someone who can hit well... someone who had a similarly successful minor league track record to Freese in the hitting department.

As for playing third base, Craig has played nearly 250 games at the hot corner in the minor leagues from 2006 to 2009. He wasn't especially good at it, but he does have a fair amount of experience. In '09 he was uprooted from the position and played much more outfield and some first base. He's not thought of being very good defensively, but he is a legit hitter. In any case, hopefully Oquendo can work some fielding magic with him. 

If his defense is rather underwhelming, his offensive upside is quite the opposite. Before being brought up to the majors, Allan Craig logged the following line playing in the minor leagues: 

.308 BA | .370 OBP | .518 SLG over 5 seasons and 505 games

 

In 2009, the Craigen hit 26 home runs with a .921 OPS at AAA. He did even better in Memphis in 2010, but was called up to the majors and failed to impress (in 144 AB). Like some of the Cardinals, he had some BABIP woes that were out of character for the guy. He had a .282 BABIP, when usually he tagged the ball for .330 to .350 batting average on balls in play. Bill James seems to like him pretty well, predicting a .316 BABIP, a lower K rate, and  a .178 ISO in 2011. James thinks he'll be in the same amount of games but will get more plate appearances, and the projection is for .350 wOBA. 

I can't say I'm real excited to see him play third base (my impression is that his arm is not that good, and he was moved from there for a reason). But this does not make him a failed prospect. The guy could still play the outfield, but he's blocked by Berkman, and Jay will be the 4th outfielder due to his speed. He could still turn into a very capable major league hitter, but it will be difficult for him to get significant playing time for the Cardinals.

It will be interesting to see how he does at third base in spring training, but he may be a great trade chip at midseason given his career .888 OPS in the minors.  As uninspiring as his brief performance for St. Louis was in 2010, he was not among the players that had negative WAR value. Bill James projects him  for a .796 OPS at major league level in 2011, nothing to scoff at.

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