Every year Baseball America released a top 20 prospect list for each minor league level. Yesterday, they released their list for the New York Penn League. The news is that one Pittsburgh Pirates prospect found himself on that list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 first round pick Will Craig found himself as the number seven overall prospect in the New York Penn League. He was rated as the top infield prospect along with the second best hitter overall. This list was made up primarily of players who were draft this year. Other notable names were 2016 first rounders A.J. Puk, Justin Dunn, and Dane Dunning. Craig was the only Pittsburgh Pirates prospect to appear on the list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 first round pick found himself in the New York Penn League all season. He played for the West Virginia Black Bears, the Pittsburgh Pirates Short-Season Advanced affiliate. This is where most college draftees go to start their careers. Last year we saw 2015 first round pick, college shortstop Kevin Newman, be assigned there to start as well. Like Newman, Craig, struggled at the start of his minor league career. After batting under .200 through his first 27 games, Craig was one of the best hitter in the New York Penn League.
Craig finished the year batting .280. He also showed a really impressive on-base percentage of .412 on the season. That on-base percentage actually ranked second in the league. Craig showed great discipline at the plate, and simply showed his best tool, being a pure hitter. Finally, Craig projects to be a plus hitter, and chances are he will have an even better year next season.
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What is Next For Craig?
I expect Craig to jump over Low-A West Virginia and start the season in High-A Bradenton. However, some of this will depend on what the Pittsburgh Pirates plans are with Ke’Bryan Hayes. Hayes played in 65 games Low-A this year, depending if they feel he needs more time there then they will keep Hayes down. So if the Pirates feel Hayes received enough at-bats at Low-A and is ready, they could keep Craig down at Low-A to start the year. The other option is if Craig moves to first base, he and Hayes could move up to High-A.
Many scouts believe he will be better suited for that position, which very well could be true. Craig is known for his bat not his glove, or range for that matter. Due to this many wonder where he will fit in the future with Josh Bell. However, the Bucs will cross that bridge when it comes. Craig still has a long ways to go before he his MLB ready. Although, I do think he has the hit tools to move relatively quick through the minors.
Michael Lananna, the writer of Baseball America’s top 20 list had this to say on Craig:
"“Craig’s best assets are his raw power and discipline. He has the arm to play third base, but his thick body and lack of mobility suggest an eventual move to first.”"
It is good to see that despite the slow start to his season, that many are still very high on Craig. In addition, Craig was listed ahead of a lot of former first round picks on this list including Daz Cameron and Garrett Whitley. The biggest issue Craig had starting the year was adjusting to wooden bat play. Also the New York Penn League, and more specifically the Morgantown fields are pitcher friendly. After Craig made the adjustments, he showed why the Pittsburgh Pirates invested their number one pick in him. Craig will be one of the Pittsburgh Pirates top hitting prospects entering the season next year.
Finally, All Numbers are Courtesy of Baseball America and Baseball Reference
Also, thoughts on Will Craig? Comment Below.