Red Sox Prediction: Allen Craig will crack the bigs in 2017
It has been a deep descent for Allen Craig since joining the Boston Red Sox. But a steep climb back up could be on his horizon as he regains his health.
Everyone loves a good comeback story, especially in sports. A hero took down by injury, only to rise again through hard work and perseverance.
This could be the story of Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig in 2017, who, as far as baseball performance goes, has hit rock bottom. A run-producing machine in the Cardinals’ 2013 World Series run following solid seasons in 2011 and 2012, Craig injured his foot going into 2014. Although the foot mostly healed, the injury had an undeniable effect on the slugger’s hitting.
After hitting .306/.358/.492 to start his career through the 2013 season, Craig hit just .237/.291/.346 to start 2014. The Cardinals knew something was up, so they shipped him to Boston, anticipating a value drop. But no one could have anticipated the meager .139/.236/.197 line that Craig would produce for the Red Sox – a line dwarfed by most NL pitchers.
Now banished from the 40-man roster and stuck in the minors, Craig finds himself in a difficult spot. He can’t be traded – no team would be willing to take on his annual $11MM salary until he proves he can hit – and there’s little incentive for the Red Sox to release him given that he’s not taking up a roster spot. The only way out is to produce, and that path starts at Spring Training.
More from Red Sox News
- Red Sox Nation deserves far more from Fenway Sports Group
- Bizarre trade deadline comes back to haunt Red Sox after Nathan Eovaldi departure
- Red Sox’ Moneyball-style offseason continues with Corey Kluber contract
- Rich Hill’s Red Sox departure puts him within striking distance of unique MLB record
- Red Sox offseason takes another nasty hit with Nathan Eovaldi departure
It might be a small sample size (and it is Spring Training), but it seems that Craig’s foot problems may finally be in the past. Claiming full health, the 32-year old has a 1.043 OPS in 17 at-bats this spring. He’s shown the ability to drive the ball the other way, one of his trademarks in his days in the heart of the Cardinals lineup. You could say he’s started 2017 off on the right foot (sorry).
For Craig to return to form, he has to barrel up the ball like he did in St. Louis. In 2013, he had a 10.9 soft-hit percentage, a 56.2 medium-hit percentage and a 32.9 hard-hit percentage. Compare that to 2015, and those numbers scale to a 28.3 soft-hit percentage, a 60.4 medium-hit percentage and an 11.3 hard-hit percentage. This resulted in a predictable BABIP drop from .368 to .212.
To delve further into his swing results, 2015 Craig was not only making worse contact than 2013 Craig but also less contact. His swinging strike percentage rose from 8.1 to 11.2 percent, his contact rate at strikes dropped from 90.1 to 83.0 percent and his contact rate at balls dropped from 70.1 to 61.3 percent.
One look at 2017 Allen Craig and it’s clear that he’s driving the ball with more emphasis than we’ve seen in his Boston tenure. His foot, supposedly clear of the lingering injury effects, is coming down with more force, generating more torque in his swing
"“I see more life in Allen Craig’s body,” John Farrell said to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I see better bat speed. There’s crispness. There’s power. A couple of really good swings again today. The ability to impact the baseball has been a little bit more consistent. There’s been more hard contact.”"
Slated to start the season back in Triple-A Pawtucket, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to feast on minor league pitching and rebuild some stock value.
Next: Red Sox: The five top performers of Red Sox spring training thus far
The man who used to lead the major leagues in hitting with RISP will be back in the major leagues in 2017. It may not be on the Red Sox, whose MLB roster is likely too crowded even barring a Craig resurgence, but Allen Craig will step up the plate in the bigs this season.