First of all, happy birthday is in order for Mr. Craig, but there aren’t a whole lot of good things that come from a first round pick reaching that age before sticking in the league.
It would be one thing if he looked like he had a shot this season, it’d be a late start but at least he’d be getting started. As it stands right now, I just don’t see the room to have him come North with the club after Spring Training. And that is a problem both for him and the club.
This isn’t a ‘bust’ so much as a guy who is blocked and isn’t dynamic enough to force others out of the way. Doesn’t mean he can’t, just hasn’t.
If the Pirates move Colin Moran or Josh Bell, Will Craig won’t have a problem making the team, it’s really that simple. In 2019 he hit 23 homeruns and struck out 146 times in a little under 500 plate appearances for the Indianapolis Indians. Now, I’m weird, at least as far as modern baseball goes. See those strikeout numbers in AAA scare the hell out of me and his brief appearance in the lineup last season certainly didn’t shed any light, but make no mistake, he is the next man up if either of those two get dealt.
Maybe he’s one of those guys who just needs a shot and everything comes together, maybe he’s someone the Bucs could potentially deal to sweeten the pot. Funny thing is, one thing this club needs is power and Craig has potential to provide it, so you’d hate to see them cut bait without giving him a real run at it.
What about putting him in the outfield? In 2019 the Pirates tried just that, moving their gold glove first base prospect to right field for 13 games. In those 13 games he had 22 chances for put outs and made 19, with two errors and a fielding percentage of .909. Not great. Not that we should have expected it would be, but still, not great. Also an incredibly small sample size, and we’ll never know if the club planned to continue with the experiment in 2020 since it never happened.
I know what you’re thinking, can he be worse than Polanco? In a word, yes. Don’t get me wrong, he could grow into the position too, but it’s not a given he’ll take to it and is it worth the gamble to add in a right handed Polanco? They could platoon if he can handle it, and I won’t rule out that being exactly what they’ll try because the alternative may very well be to let him rot.
He’s only been in the organization since 2016, four years isn’t an example of someone being held back exactly, but when you draft an older college athlete sending him to two seasons of rookie ball isn’t exactly normal either.
Hard to say it wasn’t warranted, he was drafted as a power threat and at Wake Forrest he slugged over .700 twice. Follow that up in West Virginia and Bradenton with numbers in the .350 range and you start to get a picture of why its been tough sledding. The slug numbers have normalized a bit settling in the .450 range and while it’s not elite, it’s closer to effective.
I’ll say this, if they want to give him a shot, it probably needs to happen this season because the club has plenty of players moving up the ranks who could and probably should play first base, not least of which is Mason Martin. Right field is going to be a spot for any of a number of current short stops who need a place to play and that all adds up to 2021 being Craig’s best shot at getting his feet wet and showing he belongs.
Again, happy birthday, 26 isn’t exactly Methuselah, but it’s also coming dangerously close to eating prime years from his career. Time to make some decisions here in Pittsburgh.