Friday, September 11, 2009
Free Allen Craig!Posted by Nick Steiner
Before this year, one of the Cardinals greatest strengths was considered to be their excellent depth at third base. The incumbent, Troy Glaus, had put up a 5 WAR season in his first year with the club and most thought that he would able to produce similar results this year if healthy. In addition to that, prospects David Freese and Joe Mather were coming off great years in AAA and were expected to provide quality depth, and uber-prospect Brett Wallace was waiting in the wings.
Unfortunately, things haven't exactly worked out like expected. Troy Glaus initially went down with a shoulder injury and was expected to miss the first 2 weeks of the season. However, the Cardinals wonderful medical staff got their hands on him, and it was later announced that hit would miss most of the year. Joe Mather had the flu and failed to make the team out of ST, then struggled mightily in AAA. David Freese played poorly in limited time in the majors before getting injured as well, and Brett Wallace had a "meh" season in AA before getting traded to the A's for Matt Holliday.
And just like that, the once vaunted depth evaporated, and 29 year old rookie Joe Thurston essentially became the everyday starter. He subsequently batted .223/.317/.331, "good" for a wOBA of .285. Brian Barden, and his .292 wOBA, also made a cameo.
With the Cardinals in the middle of the playoff race as the trade deadline approached, the hot corner was the obvious place to make an upgrade. Understandably, they made a trade for Mark DeRosa; and while the gave up a lot to get him, it was generally hailed as a solid move.
But of course, as soon as DeRosa donned a Cardinals uniform, he fell victim to the Curse of the Cardinals Third Basemen and injured his wrist. Since he's returned, he hasn't quite played as well as expected, with a wOBA of just .325. Interestingly enough, the forgotten man Troy Glaus, has recently returned, but he hasn't looked great in limited playing time. With the contracts of both Glaus and DeRosa expiring after the season ends, and their health and performance going forward in question, neither appears to be a lock to return next year. With the inhouse options in Mather and Freese also bringing a large degree of injury related uncertainty with them as well, the hot corner is certainly up for grabs next year.
That brings us to Allen Craig (finally!). After struggling somewhat in his initial season in Single A, he's spent the better part of 3 years dominating the minor leagues, wiping out Single A, Double A and Triple A in succession. He's wOBA over those 3 levels (first to last) have been .400, .386 and .400 in a combined 1557 plate appearances. This year at Triple A has been his strongest, as he batted .322/.374/.547, and was absolutely on fire in the second half after a pretty mellow first half.
And hey, he also plays 3rd base! His defense has never been regarded as good; however, I have yet to hear anyone disparage it so much that it negates his bat, which obviously looks to be pretty strong. Furthermore, according to the limited sample of Total Zone data that we have, he's been roughly average at 3B over the course of his career thus far:
Craig is 25 years old, and all evidence suggests that he's outgrown the minor leagues. The Cardinals are without a set third basemen next year, or even a strong favorite; and as Chris Jaffe illuminated so nicely the other day, they seem like a lock to win the division and are basically playing meaningless games from here on out. It seems like a perfect opportunity to call up Craig, and see what he has to offer at the major league level.
Nick is a Cardinals fan living in LA. He also writes for Viva El Birdos. He welcomes questions and comments via email