The St. Louis Cardinals have been recognized for their offensive prowess the past few seasons and this year a new offensive leader will emerge in Allen Craig.
Recently signed to a five-year extension, Craig is now minted to be the heir to the first base throne vacated by long-forgotten Albert Pujols. Athletes tend to go a couple of different ways after signing a contract, but I firmly believe that Craig will uphold the standard of the Cardinals and become a focused and dedicated player.
Craig has already shown he can hit for average and power in the few years he’s been in the Cardinals organization. That trend will continue and possibly elevate to a new level within the coming years.
The stat I favor when comparing overall offensive ability in hitters is the complex wOBA statistic that attempts to give value to every situation a hitter creates for himself. Last season, Craig, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina were the top three regulars in 2012 and should be there again this year.
As Holliday and Molina face the potential downswings of their career, Craig is just getting started. I’m projecting his wOBA to be slightly above Holliday’s at .364– Major League Baseball average is considered .320–and well above Molina’s.
When dealing strictly with the most recognized stat of batting average, I’d expect Craig to hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .290. He hit over .300 last season, but that was through 119 games. He’ll likely get at least 100 more at bats giving him more opportunity to further succeed or fall further victim to his 17.5% strikeout rate. Regardless of those consequences, the extra at bats should allow him to usurp Matt Holliday for the team lead in hits, which Holliday has held for the past three seasons.
Now that we’ve covered averages, let’s get into more of the type of hitting you’ll get out of Craig.
Speaking in slugging percentage, I’d put him somewhere just above .500; that number resulting from an expected increase in doubles with a few triples. Barring another highly productive year from Molina, Craig should be the team leader in SLG. Craig also has a shot to lead the team in home runs, though I’d be more apt to give that honor to Holliday or even David Freese because the former has at least 20 for the past six seasons. I feel comfortable putting Craig at about 23 homers in 2013.
Now, the most important facet of the game which is scoring runs. I find that producing runs is more important than actually scoring them for a batter, so I look upon the advanced stat of wRAA. I’m going to guess Craig should put across about 20 or so runs above the average major leaguer for St. Louis this year. Where did I come upon that assumption? Based upon the projections of Bill James and ZiPS–which have him at 28 and 12 respectively.
It will be tough for Craig to outplay some of his better known Cardinals teammates, but I’m confident we’ll see a progressive and more productive player. Craig has a ton of potential and I’d be ready for it to follow him in 2013.