Free Allen Craig!

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:

http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=501800

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.

C’mon…

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Comments

  1. another Dan said...

    since the Cards play to win, and TLR likes his vet’s, getting Craig a shot at the job just doesn’t seem in the “cards” for now.  I honestly was surprised Rasmus has gotten as much time as he has, except for the fact that the other option (ankiel) imploded this year.  they apparently are going after DeRosa to re-up him.  that makes me think they have real doubts as to their ability to re sign Holliday.  Craig may get his chance in left field if that doesn’t work out, but it seems they are trying to secure a vet for at least one of the positions now, and will deal with the other one pending the outcome of Holliday.

  2. Alex said...

    His splits this year look bad with the PCL a great hitters league, A below average fielder with suspect pop at the hot corner seems like a bad idea for a team that has plans on winning.

  3. Nick Steiner said...

    Alex, I don’t know about the PCL, but according to Minor League Splits, his park adjusted numbers are even better than his original ones:

    http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=501800

    I think it’s unfair to say that Craig has suspect pop, especially as he has career minor league ISO is .200. 

    And yes, the Cardinals are looking to win next year; however, as I tried to convey in the first part of the OP, they don’t have any clear cut options for third next year.  Getting cheap production from Craig, even if it’s a slight downgrade from what DeRosa, Glaus or Beltre might do, would be more benefitial to the Cardinals as they could then use the excess money to help re-sign Matt Holliday or Joel Pineiero.

  4. Alex said...

    That formula is off because he tore it up in the hitters parks of the PCL, If you run though his career numbers and look at the park factors you will see where his pop comes from.

    Craig is a flat 20 HR max guy if they want someone with true power and better defense at 3rd on the cheap they just need to look to Dave Freese.

  5. Alex said...

    Those numbers are thrown off by his 08 season in Double-A where he had a .240 gap favoring home while playing in the hitter friendly park in Springfield.

    Craig is a good hitter its just his power numbers aren’t going to transfer over and play in the bigs his power is virtually all in the good hitters parks.

  6. azruavatar said...

    Alex—

    A few thoughts:
    1) There are hitter’s parks in the majors too.  So even if it’s the case (your premise), what does it matter?

    2) What makes you think that David Freese (who plays in the exact same league) would have more power than than Craig.  They both hit 26 HRs in the same league and yet you claim one of them is the answer and the other lack’s true power.

    3) A minor league translation is going to roughly account for park factors in converting the aggregate data to a major league line.  So even if the PCL is a good hitter’s league, the player will be penalized for that in a translation.

    4) The 240 pt gap you so convienently cite from 2008 is almost purely BABIP driven.  He hit 9 HRs on the road and 13 at home with a 60 pt split in ISO.  You’re twisting the facts in that instance.

    If you’re going to shill for Freese, at least be convincing about it.  Allen Craig has displayed himself to be an equal or better hitter at every level relative to Freese.  You may have an argument on defense (though you’ll be hard pressed to find objective facts to support it) but on offense, they’re virtually the same hitter.

  7. Alex said...

    1) Hitters parks are in the majors, but not to the degree of some of the parks of the Pacific Coast and Texas Leagues.

    2) Dave Freese hits the ball out clean to all fields and He hasn’t had to rely on hitters parks for his power, all while skipping Double-A.

    3) Very Roughly, The Minor League Splits site only takes 2 Homers away total form the 37 Extra Base Hits on the road while adding to average in the neutralize park feature, Something I would like to see is how his MLE would look if they broke it down park to park via the MLE calculator.

    4)I’m not twisting any facts Nick Steiner pointed out his lifetime splits in OPS and I pointed out his time in Springfield for his 2 stays is the reason his home splits look better.

    They stats look the same but how they get there is different, Freese is more consistent in his numbers while doing damage in fair parks, and Craig is a player who gets hot and puts up numbers in bunches in hitters parks.

    Neither player could amount to anything at the next level, but If I had to put money on one I would go with Freese!

  8. Dan Novick said...

    Nick was pointing out that the splits were indistinguishable. If we discard the season you said, then he’s even BETTER on the road than at home. You’re not looking at the facts.

  9. Alex said...

    Dan is not a home vs road issue its Craig power is product of hitters parks deal, If you go back game by game of his career and look at the park factors you will see where I’m coming from.

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