What kind of fantasy baseball player is Allen Craig? Are his weaknesses likely to hurt the reliably strong numbers that he’s put up over the last few years? Or will Craig remain as steady a force in your fantasy lineup that he’s been for the St. Louis Cardinals?
There are certainly a few questions that I think of when assessing Craig’s potential fantasy value. So, let’s see what we can do to answer them.
Can he continue to drive in 90+ runs with modest home run totals?
In case you don’t know the exact numbers, this is what Craig has done over the last two years.
Allen Craig: 2012-2013 HR/RBI
If I was following the projection rules, I’d say something like “RBI is a really hard to category to project and it’s difficult to think of a guy who may not even hit 20 HR’s continuing to drive in 90 or more runs.” But the St. Louis Cardinals break a lot of the more traditional rules. Look at what they’ve done over the last two years, as a team.
St. Louis Cardinals 2012-2013
If you score a lot of runs without great power over a month, it can be dismissed as a fluke. It’s a little harder to dismiss it as a fluke when it happens for a full season, and nearly impossible to dismiss it as a fluke when it happens over two years.
The Cardinals are one of the better teams in baseball at reaching base. So guys like Craig that focus more on line drives than long balls thrive there.
So to answer the question, yes. Craig drove in 92 runs in only 119 games in 2012, and 97 in only 134 games in 2013. The Cardinals lineup should again be one of the better ones in baseball and with that, I have no doubt that Craig will come in at about 90 RBI again.
Will the home run totals ever dramatically increase?
The 13 he hit in 2013 were an aberration. Craig is a better home run hitter than that, as his time in the majors and minors would attest to. In 2011, he hit 11 homers while playing only 75 games and he frequently topped 20 in the minors.
Having said that, I wouldn’t bet on much more than 20 and even if you’re assuming he’ll max out on potential, I’d say that you shouldn’t plan on him to hit anything more than 25.
According to Fangraphs, Craig has a career line drive rate of 23.8 %, coming in at a whopping 26.9 % in 2013. He’s also a .306 career hitter and as we’ve already gone over, drives in plenty of runs without big HR totals. There’s no reason for Craig to change his approach at the plate.
Craig will give you a lot of production, just don’t expect anything more than 20-25 homers in a good year and realistically don’t bank on anything more than 15-19.
What other positives can we bank on?
As we just went over, Craig’s a great line drive hitter with a .306 career batting average. Even that mark is a little misleading, as he hit .246 in 2010. Over the last three seasons, Craig has hit .315 (2011, 2013), and .307 (2012), hitting .312 over that stretch. So, I think we can expect an average in the neighborhood of .310.
Similarly, he’s got a .358 career OBP, going .364 over the last three years. Hitting in a deep lineup and getting on base that often, Craig will be good to score plenty of runs. If he can avoid a trip to the DL, I’d actually say that Craig should score 85-90 runs but even if the injuries he’s dealt with over the last few years reoccur, you can look for 75-80.
What negatives do we have do deal with?
There aren’t many, but a few do stick out.
- Craig has never gotten through a full season healthy. He’s not an old guy (he’ll be 30 in mid-July) but when you’re injury prone in your younger years, that doesn’t get better once you hit the big 3-0. Craig will be effective when on the field, but do plan on 30-40 missed games.
- Even when healthy, Craig has little speed. As a fantasy owner, penciling him for a modest total like five steals is overly optimistic. Be sure that you can work around that.
We have Craig ranked as the 62nd ranked player, and 10th ranked first baseman. He also has outfield eligibility. Craig’s skills would tend to be more suited at first base but remember that you generally need 3-5 outfielders, and only 1-2 first basemen.
Again, guys like Craig are generally a little more suited to first base, which is why we rank him there and not in the outfield. Still, I’d bet that most of his owners in normal sized will play him in the outfield.
Allen Craig is a good offensive weapon in three of the five fantasy categories (runs, RBI, AVG), will contribute well in another (HR), and only struggle in one (SB).
Normally I’d say to draft Craig only if you need the position, but his dual-eligibility means I’d draft him right around 62. If you’re light on pitching and the guys we have right around him (Jose Fernandez, David Price, Madison Bumgarner) are available, I’d probably steer you to the pitchers. Otherwise, draft Craig with confidence. He’s not a perfect fantasy player, but he’s incredibly reliable.