The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that must live and die by its prospects. In a new series, PBD will project each of the team’s Top 20 prospects in 2017.
Welcome to a new recurring series here at Pirates Breakdown in which we count down and project the 2017 seasons for each of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Top 20 prospects, ranked as per MLB Pipeline.
Today we take a look at the team’s #8 prospect, 3B Will Craig.
Will Craig was a monster at the collegiate level, crushing the ball for the Demon Deacons of Wake Forrest during his time in ACC play.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were not the first team to take a liking to Craig, as he was originally drafted in the 37th round of the 2013 draft by the Kansas City Royals. He chose collegiate ball instead. That paid huge dividends for him as he was selected in the 2016 draft 22nd overall by the Pirates.
Let’s take a look at what makes Craig a 3rd base option for the Pirates down the road.
One of the obvious strengths that stand out about Will Craig is his bat speed. He brings the bat through the zone with violence. He is always looking to create damage when he comes to plate for the opposition. Craig has excellent plate vision, as he drew 41 walks in 274 plate appearances last season.
That number will most likely increase in 2017, though the degree to which it does varies on what competition level he finds himself at.
While Craig only had 2 home runs in his first season of pro ball, that number will also likely increase. Craig generates a lot of back spin on contact, which bodes well for seeing the ball fly out of the park.
Another strength that is not discussed often with Craig is his arm strength. Craig was once clocked throwing a 94 mph fastball as a closer at Wake Forrest. That is plenty of juice to get the ball across the diamond, quickly. The Pittsburgh Pirates will have a decision to make with Craig as he gets closer to the MLB level. Craig is not the most athletic guy in the world, as indicated below, but his arm makes him a viable solution at 3rd for the Pirates.
If, however, circumstances dictate a move across the diamond to first base, Craig appears more than capable on the surface. Many envision that as his final destination regardless, so the club might want to start that process sooner rather than later.
Areas For Improvement
The major area for improvement that stands out when looking at Craig’s game is his athleticism. Craig is rated a below average runner by most scouts and that also goes along with a below average fielding grade. Something that will be very interesting to watch over Craig’s career is the notion, does his bat outweigh his athletic liability? MLB Pipeline compares Craig to Billy Butler with their less than ideal frame and lack of athleticism.
Where He Starts 2017
It is likely that Craig will start with the West Virginia Power in the 2017 season. Craig can continue to work on his approach at the plate against lesser pitchers while working on his defense as well. If it becomes apparent that Craig is going to be a liability in the field, but may be a great addition to an AL club as a DH, he could become a trade chip. That is mere speculation at this point as the Pittsburgh Pirates have really enjoyed what they have seen so far from Craig.
Where He Ends 2017
Every time a prediction is made about a player’s future, you are juggling multiple variables that are true unknowns. Albeit, we will go off the idea that Craig continues to develop defensively and that his bat stays consistent with some added pop in 2017. If those two things occur, it would be reasonable for Craig to see time at Advanced A Bradenton later this season.
He would really have to tear the cover off the baseball to get called up to Altoona. Starting 2018 at the Double-A level is more realistic.
Featured Photo Credit – Scout.com