I have written about Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig a few times recently in my morning Roto Roundup pieces, but figured his 2012 performance deserved more attention, so here is a slightly longer look at his season, and why I think he could be a Top 10 fantasy first baseman in 2013.
Craig started the season on the DL missing all of April and the second half of the month of May. His first game of the season came on May 1st, where he went 2-4 with an RBI, and he hasn't stopped hitting since, except when he was injured. Here are his monthly triple slash lines, along with his HR and RBI totals:
May: .373-.424-.765, 5 HRs, 19 RBI
June: .290-.374-.516, 5 HRs, 19 RBI
July: .264-.323-.505, 5 HRs, 16 RBI
August: .370-.410-.630, 5 HRs, 17 RBI
Can you say consistency? His production, and the signing of Carlos Beltran, has minimized the loss of Albert Pujols. He has hit 5 HRs in each of the 4 months he has been active, and one of those months (May), he was active for only half the month. For the season he is hitting .320-.379-.586 with 20 HRs, 67 runs and 71 runs in just 331 at bats. He is on pace for 25 HRs, 85 runs and 90 RBI in 4.5 months of at bats. If you project his stats out for a full season, he could easily hit 30+ HRs and drive in 100+ runs, while scoring 100 runs as well. Who needs Albert Pujols when you can have Craig at a HUGE discount?
Check out where I would rank Craig for 2013 after the jump:
Amongst all fantasy first baseman, here is how he ranks
Runs scored: 7th
batting average: 3rd
Right now, he has more HRs than Adrian Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman and Joey Votto, while doing so in less at bats. He has benefitted from a .350 BABIP this season, but I don't think that will come down all that much going forward, as he had two seasons of .350+ BABIPs in two AAA seasons, and a .344 BABIP in 2011, albeit in less at bats.
Looking at his plate discipline stats over at FanGraphs, he is making just as much contact this year as he has in his previous two seasons. But, he is being more selective at the plate, swinging at just 27.7% of pitches outside the zone, down from 29.3% in 2011. Even though he is swinging at less pitches outside of his comfort zone, he is making more contact on those pitches - 72.3% vs 68% in 2011. And as a result, his swinging strike rate has dropped from 8.1% to 7.1% this season.
Craig's HR/FB% increased from 18.3% in 2011 to 21.7% this season. I am not sure if this is a fluke or if this is what we should expect from Craig going forward, as his FB% dropped from 37% to 35% this season, so that may partly explain the increase in his HR/FB rate.
If I had to rank fantasy first baseman once the season ends, and I will, I would probably rank Craig behind only Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder.. I am on the fence about ranking him ahead of Teixeira, but this year he has proven he can hit for average with excellent power. And we have yet to see him in a full season.