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.

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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68 COMMENTS

  1. 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”.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

      As far as expectations for Craig:

      Make accurate throws. Catch the ball.

  4. You have my offer to get a refund on your subscription and you declined it.

    That said, I’m not going to continue allowing your trolling in the comments.

    I can see through this. You’re mad because we haven’t had a Jose Osuna article yet. So you ignore every other article we’ve posted this week with original information that you can’t get elsewhere. And then you try to claim that we’re getting our information elsewhere.

    So I’m done with you Bruce. People are tired of your constant complaining on here, with most of it based in some kind of alternate-reality, or based in some obsession for one player who we have covered closer than anyone for years.

    I don’t ban people from the comments lightly. I avoid it with you, despite multiple complaints about you on here. You’ve been offered a refund multiple times for your final year of your subscription due to constant complaints that the site produces no good content. You’ve declined that, and continued to derail comments with your whining. So if you’re sticking around, you’re only sticking around as a reader. Your commenting access has been removed.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • Bruce is mad that we haven’t posted an article about his favorite player, Jose Osuna, yet. And I say yet because we’ve already talked to him and have an article lined up. But these things take time to complete.

      • 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

      • There will be a few good prospects in West Virginia — Luis Escobar, Adrian Valerio, Stephen Alemais — but there’s a reason I’m only going up to Charleston once this year, instead of my usual two trips.

        That sucks, because Charleston is my favorite trip in the minor league system.

            • 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.

    • 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

        • 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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).

        • 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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