Allen Craig Is Back, And You Should Care

St. Louis, MO. USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Allen Craig (21) hits a one run single off of Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (not pictured) in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Craig is playing in his first game since off season knee surgery. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

In 2011, Allen Craig played just 75 games and collected 219 plate appearances, but he hit .315/.362/.555. This was a follow-up to an even shorter 2010, in which the right-handed utility man had trouble getting on base, but showed some pop with four homers and seven doubles in 124 plate appearances.

Last night, Craig returned to the Cardinals' lineup after missing the entire month of April, and went 2-for-4. In his major-league career, he's now at .292/.341/.503, with 15 homers and 22 doubles in 120 games and 347 plate appearances. He's an outfielder, a first baseman, a third baseman, and if the need arises, might even line up at second. While he might not play any of those positions well defensively, you don't need to worry about that as a fantasy baseball owner.

Craig is owned in just 29 percent of mixed leagues at CBS, and 18.5 percent of ESPN leagues. He's seen barely any increase in his ownership, even with his pending (and now present) removal from the disabled list. He's not an every day player, but he is someone who can get enough at-bats to do some work for you in NL-only formats.

Lance Berkman is dealing with an injury that has him on the disabled list, and while he's eligible to return Friday, it doesn't sound like that will happen. That opens up consistent playing time for Craig at first base, and if he hits, the Cardinals will find room for him to play. The outfield is full up, with Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Carlos Beltran, but Craig is the fourth outfielder and the most productive bat off of the bench.

This is a situation where Craig is unlikely to add much in terms of quantity, but the quality of what he does offer helps you avoid the subtraction by addition problem that plagues many NL-only outfielders or corner infielders.

He's been largely ignored, so if you need a bat for a few weeks, or just to have stashed around for the next Cardinals injury, then he's there for the taking. Just don't cut anyone you might get more use out of.

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