2012 Fantasy Baseball Player to Watch: Allen Craig

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Allen Craig's percent owned rate might be rising at an astronomical rate, but it is still not nearly enough for what his true value deserves.

As of the 10th he was owned in 52% of Yahoo! leagues, up from just 37% on the 7th.  Evidently owners needed to see the production to buy in on Craig.  As for ESPN he was owned in 54.8% of leagues up from just 28.2% a week ago.  These should only continue to rise, as the young righty has been mashing over the past year or so and there's no reason to expect any regression.

I've been on the Craig bandwagon ever since he got called up last season by the Cards and hit the snot out of the ball.  I was most likely a member of a scarce group of fantasy owners who actually drafted and stashed Craig in plenty of leagues on the DL.  This due in part to his ability to hit but even more so his eligibility at multiple positions.

Most weren't in on this concept because Allen Craig is a relatively unknown commodity to all but the keenest of fantasy owners.  He was just an 8th round pick for the Cards back in 2006 and was never considered a real high end prospect.  But all he's done from the minors up until now is hit, and consistently for that mattter.  Although I can't say that nobody was on board coming into the season.  Plenty of experts expressed their hankering for Craig and plenty of other owners saw his production from last year and dreamed of that projected over a full season.

Anyways,  have I mentioned that I have a man crush on Allen Craig?  Well, now you know either way.

Sure the naysayers may say, "The cards don't have an every day position for him when Lance Berkman returns from the DL."  To them I ask, when have you ever known Lance Berkman to remain healthy, heck, what about Carlos Beltran?

Aside from the obvious injury risk to his team mates, Is there really any doubt that head coach Mike Matheny gets this guy his at bats each week?  This isn't Tony LaRussa we're talking about, who buried his young guys on the bench at the first sighting of a slump.  Matheny doesn't have a track record of sitting his young guns; why should he start now?

It seems safe to assume that Craig should see about four games a week started every week, at least.  What with the aging Berkman at first, the aging Beltran in right and an unrproven Jon Jay starting in center.  That's before we even mention the black hole that the Cards second base tandem is at this time.  What's stopping Mattheny from plugging Craig's bat into the lineup there too if he sustains this production going forward?

In just 27 at bats over seven games Craig has already accrued some impressive stats: 3 HR, 11 RBI, .333 BA and a .387 OBP.  This, after finishing with a great per game stat line in 2011: 11 HR, 40 RBI, .315 AVG and a .362 OBP over 219 at bats.  This is a guy who hit .307 over his minor league career and notched 29 homers per 162 games played.

Looking deeper at the statistics all the important categories seem generally in line with his career averages.  His career BAPIP stands at .320, one might say that is an unsustainable number.  But Craig did post a .344 BAPIP last year and aside from his 114 at bat stint with the Cards in 2010 has actually maintained a BAPIP in that range throughout his career.

2010 was his first taste of major league level pitchers and he had a poor showing.  He hit just .246 with 4 HR and 18 RBI over those 114 at bats, with a lowly .282 BAPIP.  But if you remove that outlier and look at his BAPIP from 2007 up until his major league stint in 2010 his BAPIP actually hovered in the .340 range.

If I just bombarded you with a little too much statistics what I'm really saying is this; there's no reason to believe that Craig will regress, the production is here to stay.

There's no question that he has room to improve though, as he could very well strikeout a little bit too much for my taste the rest of the way.

Either way my man crush goes on.  Now get out of here and go pick up Craig  if you're lucky enough to be in one of those leagues that he's still available (I'm in none).  Or if he is owned go trade for him before his value continues to shoot through the roof.  Now is your last chance to get him at a price tag that should be the lowest for years to come.

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Written by Mike Naclerio exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com

Follow Mike on twitter @MikeNaclerio.

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