Pirates Prospect: An Interview with Will Craig

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Major League Baseball Draft was earlier this month. With their first round selection, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig.

Will Craig is listed at 6’3”, 235 pounds, and he looks and acts every bit of it. He’s a big guy who plays a big game, and that’s why the Pirates were fortunate to slate him on their draft card this past Sunday. with the 22nd overall pick. Craig was drafted back in 2013 by the Kansas City Royals out of Science Hill HS (TN), but did not sign due to his commitment to play at Wake Forest. I think it’s safe to say the decision to attend college has paid off for him.

Craig was projected by most to be a late-first or early second-round draft pick in 2016 after essentially dominating at the college level. Perhaps the most complete hitter in the draft, according to most, Craig began to fall to projections, but the Pirates snagged him at 22nd overall.

Craig’s college numbers alone should have put him in the first half of the first round, if not the top 10 in my eyes. He hit for a 1.198 OPS in his sophomore season and put up outstanding numbers throughout his tenure at Wake Forest. In 162 games as a Demon Deacon, Craig hit for a .347/.461/.623 slash line while slugging 37 home runs, driving in 160 runs, smashing 42 doubles, and scoring 126 runs. Craig earned ACC Player of the Year honors in 2015 as a sophomore and became the fourth Demon Deacon to be named an All American by five different outlets.

I was able to speak with Will Craig before Saturday’s game at Mahoning Valley, and Craig was no stranger to showing excitement with joining the Pirates organization.

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“(The Pirates) called me a few minutes before I got drafted and it was just a great feeling. I couldn’t have gone to a better organization,” he said.

Craig went 1-4 with an RBI single and a run scored in his professional debut. In addition to his first professional hit, RBI, and run scored, Craig added two nice backhanded stops defensively at third base.

“I didn’t have butterflies like you might think when I made my debut. I made a couple of nice plays defensively to help me settle in, too,” he commented.

On meeting the Pirates front office, seeing the sights of Pittsburgh including PNC Park, and speaking with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, Craig added that “It was awesome. I never met either of them throughout the whole process, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity they are giving me in this organization.”

With regards to his own game in self-reflection, Craig admitted that his defense is one facet that needs improvement throughout his development process.

“I’ve been able to play well in the field at times, but I really haven’t been solid on a consistent basis and that’s one area I definitely need to work on.”

He added comments about facing professional pitching as opposed to what he saw at the collegiate level.

“I need to get used to the way people pitch me. It’s a little different in college where you get a lot of off-speed stuff. I got a few off-speed pitches in my first few professional at-bats, and I need to remember to hit situationally. I can’t be offering at pitches too much. If I get a pitch that I can handle, I’ll swing at it. Overall, I’m just trying to go out there and play my game and get better every day.”

Black Bears manager Wyatt Toregas commented on Craig as a player and what he brings to the table as a prospect.

“I just met Will a couple of days ago, and so far I like what I see with him. Physical guy… Athletic… I can see why we drafted him first round. I’m sure there’s some defensive things we can work on with him. He’s going to need to play both third and first base. Let’s let him get some more at-bats before we can assess.”

Toregas continued his comments on Craig, saying “The guy can hit, hands down. I’ve seen him in B-P, and the hands work, the body works, everything works, so now let’s get him some at-bats and see where it goes. Defensively, we’ll get him his work and introduce him to how the Pirates defenses work, and we’ll go from there. Right now, it’s a little to assess, but I like him so far.”

Toregas also spoke about the idea of coming off a League Championship and how he can bring that winning mindset to this new crop of prospects.

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“I think this level is different than any other level, because you do get that new crop coming in, so you kind of go back to square-one. My mindset was to start over again. I’m really just trying to assess what I have right now, and so far, it looks good. We have some things to work on, but one thing I like is our competitive nature as a squad right now. We’re coming out and competing. The main goal right now is to fuse working together as a team with working on a developmental level for these players individually.”

Will Craig is just one of those guys that suits up for the NYPL’s defending champions and their opportunistic manager, and he can be an impact player in this organization with time and development. The potential that lies within should give Pirates fans reasons to be excited. He’s as complete of a hitter as you would hope for considering his draft position and his accolades in college. This is a player who very well could be the third baseman or first baseman of the future for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Corey Crisan is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Rum Bunter on the FanSided family of networks. Follow him on twitter @cdcrisan.