Allen Craig Would Look Good in Angel Red


The Angels can’t afford to be cheap this season. The team is built for a championship run at the moment, but has issues heading into the future. While I would still contend that the club should remain good for years with some of their young core of players getting better, how many more years do Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver have left? Can you really bank so much on the future when you have a team built to win now? The Angels need to look at every move out there that could make them better in the now without leveraging the future too much.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe presents an interesting idea that may suit the Angels, Allen Craig could be available. Josh Hamilton is almost certainly going to be out for a decent portion of the season. At this point you have to move on to see how best to fill his position for at least this season. Offseason addition Matt Joyce is the obvious and capable option. Throw in Collin Cowgill and you have could have a platoon split that is above league average. This option creates a hole at DH and first base where Joyce was expected to see plenty of playing time, especially against right handed pitchers. With Joyce in the field C.J. Cron will be given the responsibility of DH and first base relief for Pujols.

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Cron is a young player with good power and contact ability (69.2% O-Contact%) but he has an extreme weakness in that he swings at almost everything. His first 253 big league at bats last year were rough in that he struck out 24.1% of the time and only walked 4.0%. He’s a young player who could improve with those numbers, but it shouldn’t be counted on since his Minor League career shows that is just his game. His value is in his power, which is significant given his 11 home runs in 253 PA last year. Fangraphs Steamer projects a wRC+ of 99, meaning he is expected to be league average on offense. Nothing wrong with that, but can the Angels do better?

Defensively it’s no secret he is a possible liability at first base. He had a UZR of -4.2 last season and scouts have always seen that he lacks a good glove. Pujols played 43 games as a DH last year and showed he may be better there with a batting average 72 points higher than while at first base. Given his age and that production gap, the Angels may need to use him as a DH more often this season. If they do, a first baseman will be needed to pick up a chunk of playing time. Cron is their best option but with his defensive liabilities he too is much better as a DH.

"He’s only 30-years-old and has had an OPS+ of at least 129 in the three consecutive years prior."

Allen Craig is an obvious fit, if he can get back to his pre-2014 production numbers. Because lets face it, last year was a disaster for him. In time split between the Cardinals and Red Sox he put up an OPS+ of 66. That’s 44% below average and unacceptable for any team, let alone a contender. There are reasons to believe he could rebound if given a chance to play regularly. He’s only 30-years-old and has had an OPS+ of at least 129 in the three consecutive years prior.

He’s played 1,793 innings in the outfield and 1904.1 at first base. Defensive metrics show he is a sure-handed first baseman with a career UZR of 0.4. In the outfield he is rated  a little lower with a career UZR of -2.2. Essentially he is not a defensive asset but won’t cause great harm out there either. Compare those stats to Cron’s UZR of -4.2 in only 251 innings at first last year, and you see why Craig is a defensive upgrade with flexibility with his outfield abilities. Craig can spell Pujols at first and platoon with Joyce in left field. When those two are in the field he can be your DH.

C.J. Cron would be the only player losing out if Craig came on board since Cowgill could still see plenty of time at any of the three outfield positions. Cron could be packaged in a trade, kept in Triple-A for depth, or possibly be a bench option with power.

The only reason for the Angels to not consider Craig is what he would cost in a trade. The Red Sox would be selling low on him, but look to be stuck since they have so many players that will cut into his playing time. This gives the Angels or any other team the upper hand in negotiations. Losing any of the Angels top 20 prospects would be painful but necessary to land him. He may be worth it to fill out the roster.

Next: AL West Week That Was