2014 was not kind to Allen Craig. He began the year rehabilitating from a Lisfranc injury which sidelined him for almost the entirety of September 2013 and hampered him in the postseason. However, even once the season started, Craig never fully recovered from that injury and he was clearly playing through pain in his worst season to date, in which Craig slashed a meager .237/.291/.346 through the first four months of the season. Then, to (literally) add insult to injury, the Cardinals (the organization which drafted and developed Craig) dealt him to the last-place Red Sox, where he hit a horrific .128/.234/.191 over the final months of the season.
All in all, not a good year.
However, the calendar has flipped to 2015 and things are looking up for Craig. During the Red Sox Winter Weekend and Foxwoods Casino, Craig commented on his health and displayed some optimism for the upcoming season.
"I’ve had time to work out and get my body feeling good and healthy. I’m just kind of building for spring training and the season. I’m excited about where I’m at. I feel good. I can’t reiterate enough — I feel really good physically and I’ve had time to lift [weights] and get ready and work on some things mechanically. I feel great and I’ve been working hard. I’m just looking forward to spring training and getting live at-bats and getting into game-mode and playing the game.I don’t ever like to make excuses for anything because obviously you’re responsible for everything. But there are factors. I think my foot injury definitely impacted my preparation for last year. My foot felt good for the majority of the season, but it just impacted some leg strength and this and that. You can talk about it all day but the bottom line is that I’ve had time this off-season to feel good and get stronger and actually build toward something for this season. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot."
At his best, from 2011-2013, Craig was one of the premier hitters in the National League. During that three-year stretch, he slashed .312/.364/.500 with a 139 wRC+, meaning that he was 39% better than the average hitter (adjusted for park factors). Clearly, his 2014 performance was a far cry from his sheer dominance in those seasons; however, even for a fully healthy Craig, playing time will be tough to come across next season.
Craig is a fairly versatile player, having spent significant time at first base and both corner outfield positions, plus some minor time at second base, third base, and center field. He hasn’t excelled at any of those positions, though he has been passable at first base and corner outfield, but the versatility is still impressive. However, the Red Sox still have above-average players at every one of those positions, leaving no avenue to give Craig regular playing time barring injuries.
Of course, injuries will happen and having a solid bat like Craig in the wings could be a huge boost to this team. Even if the Red Sox don’t plan on keeping Craig, perhaps opting to deal him for a reliever or another need, his health is good news, though. A healthy Craig would net a good return in a trade and he’ll be able to prove that health in spring training. So, whether the Red Sox plan to keep Craig as a strong-hitting utility man or deal him, he will be one of the more interesting pieces of the team to watch in the early stages of the season.