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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Will Craig is Going to Play First Base the Majority of the Time to Start 2017

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pirates drafted Will Craig in the first round last year as a third baseman, and as is the case with any big third baseman, the countdown began on how long he would stick at the position before moving to first base. Craig hasn’t exactly made the full switch already, but he’s getting a lot of work at first base this spring, and is going into the season expecting to be playing more first base than third base.

“For right now they’re just telling me playing first and third,” Craig said. “First probably the majority early on, but I’m still getting my work in at third. Probably right now the majority at first.”

Larry Broadway, the Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations, said that Craig would get action at both spots, but also indicated that it could be more at first base. Ke’Bryan Hayes has been working with the Bradenton infield group a lot this spring, and I asked whether the move for Craig is because of Hayes. Broadway said they haven’t made a decision on Hayes yet, but that Hayes wouldn’t impact Craig.

“Not necessarily,” Broadway said on whether Hayes being in Bradenton would impact the position for Craig. “It could if [Hayes] is [in Bradenton], and obviously that’s another factor. I think more so when we talk about guys like Craig or Hayes that it’s more dependent on them than it is on the roster makeup. It will be up to Will to show us. Third base is tough to play everyday, and he’s a big guy. Just his ability to do that and stay agile over there and stay quick, and obviously he has the arm strength over there. We’ll keep an eye on the range, and try to get him in a position to be successful right away. Maybe a little more first base than third base. We’ll see how that plays out here.”

Craig had a busy first offseason. He took some time off after the combination of a long college season, his first pro season, and instructs. During this time, he got engaged. He then got back into the cages and on the field, with a focus to work on his conditioning. The big focus here was getting strength back into his legs to use them longer, but the conditioning also would help his chances of sticking at third.

“[I was] getting back in to the weight room, and getting back the strength into my legs,” Craig said. “Trying to change my diet, and trying to change everything up to clean up my body. I didn’t really lose weight as much, but really tone myself up and redistribute the weight. I think I did that as well as I could this offseason. Try to get back here and get ready.”

The Pirates have seen other players transition to first base over the years, and the transition isn’t always a smooth one (SEE: Bell, Josh). That shouldn’t be the case with Craig. He’s not exactly new at the position, playing it during his sophomore year in college. I talked with scouts last year who had seen him in college and had no concerns about his ability to play the position. He also got work at the spot during instructs, and worked on it some more later in the offseason.

“Now that I’ve gotten a lot of playing time over there in instructs, and I did some work in the offseason at first and third … for the most part it’s pretty comfortable,” Craig said of the position.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRjDWBdg_tx/

You can see that he looks pretty comfortable in the video above, including a split catch on one close play.

“I don’t know if that’s going to happen too often,” Craig laughed. “That was kind of an accident. It feels good. I feel like I read the ball well, and feel like I pick it pretty well.”

From an individual standpoint, it makes more sense for Craig to stick at third base as long as possible, since he’d have more value at that position. His bat could still have value at first base, especially if he continues the strong performance we saw in the second half of the NYPL season last year after his slow start. And he doesn’t look like he would be a liability at first base on defense.

From an organizational standpoint, it makes more sense for Craig to move to first base the majority of the time, while still getting work at third. Ke’Bryan Hayes is the much better defender, and while it’s not yet decided whether he will be up in Bradenton on Opening Day, he will be up in Bradenton at some point this year. Craig could move up to Altoona by that point, but would also be dealing with guys ahead of him. Eric Wood is the better defender and has a better chance at sticking at third. Connor Joe is currently switching back and forth between first and third for the Altoona team, and could have a similar rotation with Craig in Altoona during the second half.

Craig is still getting work at third base. He spent two days in a row at first base this week, but was rotating grounders at third with Hayes on the third day I watched him. From all indications, it looks like he will continue seeing more time at first base in 2017, while still keeping third base as an option.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Joseph D

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piraddict

Maybe I am reading between the lines too much but it sounds like Craig wasn’t a s successful losing belly fat as the Bucs wanted him to be, and they are sending him a message, ” lose weight or your future is 1B”.

Paul Britton

Tim, I guess there will always be people who can’t resist saying nasty things on the internet, with its relative anonymity, just because that’s the kind of people they are. But surely you know that the rest of us are happy as clams with what you do on PP.

leowalter

Whaat ?

dr dng

Tim or John
Thanks for the info on Pedro, can I get back to
my original question.

Compare & contrast Will Craig to Pedro Alvarez.
Both were #1 picks correct.
What would be the expectation be for Craig?
More, less or different than Pedro?

GreenWeenie

Alvarez wore his cap over his ears. Craig does not.

As far as expectations for Craig:

Make accurate throws. Catch the ball.

piraterican21

I’m actually laughing out loud! That’s upper level scouting!

piraterican21

Alvarez could had gone #1 in a good draft, Craig could had fallen to the supplemental draft and is nowhere the prospect that Alvarez was. Craig has a good chance to be a regular, Alvarez was expected to be a star.

piraddict

Alvarez was always great power, poor average. Craig should be good average, average power.

GreenWeenie

I agree but regarding Alvarez, your sentence should have read:

“Craig has a good chance to be a regular, Alvarez was expected to be a star, but ended up being neither.”

Pedro by many accounts was a good guy, so it’s a shame but by the time he left here, he was a designated hitter that struck out a lot. He had talent, but his game never developed. Craig may have less talent, but could end up being a better all-around player. Time will tell.

Catch22

Mic drop…..

dcbuccofan

Amen. I disagree with some of the opinions here, but that is what the comments are for…well thought baseball discussion. But I can’t stand the whining from some who feel entitled by their paid subscription.

Hoptown

Keep your head up, Tim. Don’t let idiots get to you. The site is great and you are taking the right action at the appropriate time to protect your business.

WardHolder

Agreed – can’t count the number of times I’ve seen stuff here, and then picked up by one of the Pittsburgh papers, or by national sources. Love the coverage.

Wilbur Miller

Now I’ll never get an answer . . . .

st1300b

Craig actually looks pretty smooth over there

Wilbur Miller

So you didn’t actually read this article . . . .

Bruce Humbert

Yes I did and the Broadway content was widely available elsewhere. Seems like that is all we get these days.

Lennyk1029

I just want to say.. F**K YOU Bruce. Ah that’s better

leowalter

+++ !

Wilbur Miller

I guess there’s a reason I haven’t gotten a response to my question.

Wilbur Miller

How can you expect them to get the quotes when you haven’t published them yet?

Wilbur Miller

Where exactly?

Scott K

I couldn’t disagree more, Bruce.

Catch22

Wait…Didn’t Tim discover Glasnow’s new grip on the change-up?

DanielF

I wish my life was simple enough that the extent of my worries was about whether or not P2 posted a story about Jose Osuna….. You should really tell Mr. Osuna about Bruce, I bet he’d love it!

dr dng

Tim or John
Compare & contrast Will Craig to Pedro Alvarez.
Both were #1 picks correct.

On a side note, can we now say that Pedro
is out of baseball? I find that very sad.

AttyMike

How about a will craig jeff clement comparison?

Catch22

I’m not John or Tim, but…..How did you miss Alvarez signing with the O’s.

We’ll blame it on Daylight Savings

dr dng

I’ve been out of town for a few days.
When did that happen?

Catch22

Few days ago…Minor League deal. Apparently, part of the deal is he will be playing the OF, said he’s been working on it the last 3-4 months.

Joe Campr

Pedro’s failure is totally on his shoulders, pirates did everything they could for him….it was still a good #1 pick.

justinblain1996

Since Craig was/is projected to move to first base in the future anyway, it doesn’t hurt starting him over there now. The more practice and experience will help him long-term.

Catch22

Wilbur, John, or anyone – Where’s keller starting the year?

Wilbur Miller

Bradenton

Catch22

Thanks. Hopefully the plan is a couple of months and if all goes well Altoona

Wilbur Miller

They’re really cautious with pitchers, but if he looks like he did after he got promoted at the end of 2016, I’m not sure he’s going to be all that challenged in the FSL.

Catch22

You should rephrase that to – They’re really cautious with *prep* pitchers…

Wilbur Miller

Ha. They did really push Eppler.

Catch22

Guys like Cumpton, Kuhl come to mind.

Wilbur Miller

I was surprised when they pushed Kuhl the way they did. He struck me initially as probably an org guy. Happily, they knew better.

domdidominic

Just glad Altoona comes to NH late this year-Keller should be up!

Wilbur Miller

I’m actually more excited about him than I was about Glasnow at the same stage.

piraterican21

Let’s hope he hits and hits for power, wherever he plays.

mike_carlini66

That Bradenton team is looking deep this year. That pitching staff and the infield with Hayes, Tucker, Reyes and Craig. I read the article about Indy being the team to watch but I, personally think it’s Bradenton.

John Dreker

Indianapolis will have both quality and quantity. Bradenton will have quality, but not even half of the amount of top 50 prospects. Bradenton looks like they will be second best, but it’s a distant second. Altoona will be fun throughout the year, getting some players held back from Indy early and getting prospects from Bradenton later. As Wilbur said, WV looks extremely weak in general, but compared to the other three full-season teams, it’s going to be an ugly season

piraddict

Why is WV a hole in the system this year?

John Dreker

Because the drafted pitching heavy in the last draft and the best hitter they got is skipping over the level. Prospects run in cycles, sometimes the bottom is heavy, sometimes it’s the top. Indianapolis has a team like we have never seen for prospects, while Altoona and Bradenton both look strong. When you have three teams like that, there is going to be a hole somewhere, and it’s WV this year.

If the Pirates had the same philosophy as the Phillies, then you would probably see Ogle, Kranick and MacGregor in WV this year and then we wouldn’t be talking about a weak team. The Pirates like sending players to levels when they are ready, while Phillies don’t mind having prospects struggle and then repeat Low-A. As someone who has watched many Lakewood games over the years, it’s a yearly tradition to see an over-matched teenager or two there.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the Pirates are both top-heavy with strong prospects and they have plenty of depth.

piraddict

Thanks!

Wilbur Miller

What we can be really sure of is that it’s not West Virginia.

piraddict

The Alemais / Valerio competition should be fascinating to follow!

Wilbur Miller

If you’ve got so many SSs that playing time is an issue, that’s not a bad thing.

piraddict

True, but we won’t know for a couple of years whether one or both will turn a corner with the hit tool. Too early to tire of either one. Both are still a long shot to be a starter. Hopefully at least one breaks through.

Wilbur Miller

I thought Alemais was going to Bradenton . . . .

Not high on Valerio any more.

piraddict

Why? Valerio is still young. Hit tool can improve.

Wilbur Miller

So, what’s the over/under on when the Trib runs something on this without mentioning P2?

jimmyz

Good to see the front office getting him work at first in the minors instead of waiting til he reaches the big leagues like they did with Pedro.

lfhlaw

Pedro was a different animal. He was a 3B who ended up with the hiccups when throwing to 1st. When management asked him to move he rebuffed slightly. He didn’t come to training camp early to work on 1b. Plus with his time in the majors you can’t send someone down to minors unless he agrees to it.

Arik Florimonte

I think that’s fair, but lots of people were saying they didn’t think he could stay at 3B long term, going back to before he was drafted. So they *could* have worked him some at 1B along the way. OTOH, it’s not unreasonable to expect a skilled defender to be able to learn 1B. on the fly… many do (just apparently not for the Pirates).

DanielF

Freese was able to do it extremely well, Jaso did a great job. Pedro is an enigma haha

piraddict

Pedro simply didn’t want to make the change, and that undercut his performance at 1B.

Darkstone42

That was a thought when he was drafted, but he came up to the Majors and was somewhere between average and better than that defensively at third until he got the yips. If he’d never forgotten how to throw a baseball, he’d still be a third baseman. His hands were exceptional, and he got great reads on the ball off the bat, which combined to give him better range than his size and raw foot speed would have suggested.

Interestingly, he was the same way on the bases. He’s posted average or better baserunning numbers for most of his career (his rookie season is the exception here) despite being pretty slow. He’s smart, reads the ball well off the bat, and takes the extra base with conviction when he sees his opportunity.

It’s unfortunate how in his own head he got defensively, because Pedro Alvarez is legitimately among the smartest and most instinctive ballplayers in the league. He’s still a perfectly fine hitter, too. Without the yips, he would have been an average or better third baseman still, I suspect.

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