Morning Report: Will Craig’s Change in Approach Has Him Chasing a Rare Mark

As a site that puts out a Prospect Guide and reports on players all year long, we don’t mention RBIs often for players. You get those in the Prospect Watch of course because those are game recaps, but it doesn’t make you a better prospect if runners are getting on base often ahead of you in the batting order. That being said, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the amount of RBIs coming from Will Craig this year and the mental change he made to make that possible. He closing in on 100, which is a rare mark in the minors for the Pirates.

The reason you don’t see many 100 RBI seasons in the minors is because they play shortened schedules. They also have fewer off-days than the majors, so players tend to get rested slightly more often than in the big leagues.

You can actually look at Will Craig’s RBIs to see how his change in approach this year has worked. The big knock we mentioned last year is that Craig had the approach of a lead-off hitter in all situations. Even with men on base, he would be perfectly satisfied to work the count, take strikes early, and just keep the line moving.

That’s not what teams expect from their middle of the order hitters and early this season he stated that his goal was to drive in more runs. He wanted more power and RBIs and he got them this season. In essence, the 93 RBIs with three weeks left, represents him being more aggressive with runners on base. It would be extremely safe to assume that Craig’s approach from last year, carried over to Altoona this year, would not lead to him closing in on the RBI century mark.

All that tells you is why we are seeing more RBIs from him and that doesn’t actually make him a better prospect. His aggressive style this year has come with a large decrease in his on base percentage (down 51 points) and a slightly bigger increase in his slugging, which has his OPS currently 11 points higher than last year. That’s 11 points in a much better league and park for hitters, so is it really an improvement? Not really. In that article linked just above, Craig said he was willing to sacrifice some average to add power. I don’t believe he specifically meant this much average/on base though.

The slight bump in his prospect status recently comes from the fact that we have seen him get on base often and we are seeing him hit for power, so the hope for Pirates fans is that there is a happy medium there that pushes him into the top ten prospects.

Let’s look at the 100 RBI club for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the minors, since Craig has his eyes set on that mark right now. You already got the prospect talk and you can’t really use RBIs as a indicator for future success, so this is just for fun to see where the past 100 RBI guys ended up in the majors. Starting with the most recent one first…

You have to go back to 2010 for the last one and it was Quincy Latimore, who drove in 100 runs for Bradenton at the age of 21. I’ll mention that Andrew Lambo had 99 RBIs more recently, but that’s just horseshoes here, no one gets in the 100 RBI club with two digits.

Latimore is actually a good player to look at for Craig because he’s one of the guys we used as an example of minor league stats looking good (52 extra-base hits, 11-for-12 in steals) but his 30:136 BB/SO ratio meant he had work to do. If you’re putting up those BB/SO numbers in High-A, imagine what higher level pitchers would do. Latimore is still plugging away in pro ball, but he never made the majors. Craig by the way, has a 32:109 BB/SO ratio this year, which isn’t close to as bad as Latimore in 2010, but it still needs work.

Before Latimore, it was Steve Pearce who last drove in 100 runs, picking up 113 RBIs in 2007. It helped that the Pirates returned him to Lynchburg as a 24-year-old to start the year, but he ended up hitting his way to the majors by the end of the season. It’s a big difference in career paths between Pearce and Latimore, with Pearce now in his 12th season in the majors.

Any 100 RBI season before 2008 really should come with an asterisk, because those had minor league pennants in mind. That hasn’t been a goal since then. I’ll still look at them because I’m bored right now and old-time prospect fans might like hearing names again…such as Brad Corley? If you remember him, congrats for being around on the prospect side for a little while. He drove in exactly 100 runs for Hickory in 2006. The Pirates can’t really be blamed for him never developing because Corley once said his very aggressive style at the plate got him to where he was and he wasn’t changing it. That style had him stall in Double-A.

I planned to go further, but I’m stopping at 2004 because there is where it gets ridiculous. Brad Eldred isn’t the ridiculous part, but what he did that year would definitely qualify. He drove in 137 runs between Lynchburg and Altoona. Raise your hand if you’re among the group of people who didn’t care that he struck out a lot and didn’t hit for average with the Pirates, you just wanted to see Big Country hit some long homers for a team that was going to finish last with or without him. Couldn’t have just been me.

The ridiculous part of 2004 was Jon Benick, a 24-year-old with Double-A experience, playing first base full-time for Low-A Hickory and driving in 104 runs. Hickory won the SAL title that year with one future MLB player on offense, Nyjer Morgan. That’s why I’m stopping here. #Littlefield (yes, I included a hashtag in an article).

Every player is different and as I stated, RBIs are the last thing you want to use as a comparison for future success (“aren’t a thing” would actually be better wording). That being said, it’s interesting to see that out of the last five guys, you have three who never made the majors, one who had a few cups of coffee, and a solid long-term bench player with some higher points in his career in Pearce. Most minor leaguers would take his big league career in a heartbeat, but then again, most minor leaguers would also take what Eldred did just as quick.


The Pirates are in fourth place in their division, trailing by eight games with 43 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by five games.

Indianapolis is in first place and they lead by 1.5 games with 21 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by 2.5 games with 22 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by 2.5 games.

Bradenton is in sixth place and trails by 14 games with 20 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in fifth place and trails by 10.5 games with 21 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by 1.5 games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and they trail by 12 games with 20 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in third place and trails by 4.5 games with 16 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by two games.

The GCL Pirates are in fourth place and they trail by ten games with 11 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates1 are in fourth place and they trail by 11 games with 11 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates2 have been eliminated from the playoff race.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates were off on Monday. They travel to Minnesota for two games against the Twins. Jameson Taillon will get the start today, coming off of his outing on August 7th when he allowed two runs over nine innings against the Colorado Rockies. The Twins will counter with right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who has a 4.50 ERA in 120 innings, with 120 strikeouts and a 1.41 WHIP. In his last start, he allowed one run over 4.2 innings against the Cleveland Indians.

The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader for Indianapolis after they were rained out yesterday. Nick Kingham makes his second start since returning to Indianapolis. He allowed two runs over five innings in his first game back. No starter has been announced yet for the second game. Dario Agrazal makes his second start for Altoona since returning from his right shoulder strain. He allowed two runs over six innings last time out. Bristol has a late morning start time. West Virginia has off today. Morgantown has off today for the NYPL All-Star game. Travis Swaggerty, Mike Gretler and Cam Alldred will represent the Black Bears in the game.

MLB: Pittsburgh (61-58) @ Twins (54-63) 8:10 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.63 ERA, 119:35 SO/BB, 134.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (65-54) @ Scranton/WB (60-56) 5:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (2.32 ERA, 53:15 SO/BB, 54.1 IP) and TBD

AA: Altoona (63-52) @ New Hampshire (67-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (2.81 ERA, 32:9 SO/BB, 57.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (50-62) @ Clearwater (64-54) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Evan Piechota (5.35 ERA, 24:9 SO/BB, 37.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (60-55) vs Columbia (54-62) 7:05 PM 8/15 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (21-35) @ Batavia (24-30) 7:05 PM 8/15 (season preview)
Probable starter: Osvaldo Bido (4.73 ERA, 39:14 SO/BB, 51.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (25-27) vs Johnson City (22-27) 11:30 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (19-23) vs Blue Jays 12:00 PM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (29-32) vs Rays2 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (24-37) vs Colorado 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Morgantown on Sunday, two homers. Grant Koch first to tie the game

Brett Kinneman for the win


8/13: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/13: Jackson Williams activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/12: Miami Marlins acquire Christopher Bostick for cash.

8/12: Pirates recall Jacob Stallings. Option Jordan Luplow.

8/12: Stephen Alemais placed on the DL. Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster.

8/11: Pirates recall Michael Feliz and Buddy Boshers. Clay Holmes and Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

8/11: Jin-De Jhang placed on temporary inactive list.

8/10: Pirates recall Clay Holmes. Option Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis.

8/10: Afredo Reyes assigned to Altoona. Dylan Busby assigned to Bristol.

8/8: Luis Nova and Denny Roman promoted to Bristol. Yerry De Los Santos promoted to GCL Pirates.

8/8: John Pomeroy promoted to West Virginia. Alec Rennard and Argenis Romano promoted to Morgantown.

8/8: Rodolfo Castro activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/8: Josh Bell activated from disabled list. Jose Osuna optioned to Indianapolis.

8/7: Pirates claim Buddy Boshers off waivers. Christopher Bostick designated for assignment.

8/7: Jackson Williams placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

8/7: Jin-De Jhang activated from Altoona DL. Bralin Jackson placed on disabled list.

8/6: Pirates acquire Adeiny Hechavarria and cash considerations From the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Seelinger.

8/6: Domingo Robles Promoted to Bradenton. James Marvel promoted to Altoona.

8/5: Dario Agrazal assigned to Altoona. Pedro Vasquez assigned to Bradenton.

8/5: Pirates recall Casey Sadler. Option Alex McRae to Indianapolis.

8/5: Zac Susi assigned to Bristol.


Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a transaction of note. On this date in 1911, the Pirates sold first baseman John Flynn to St Paul of the American Association, which is where the Pirates purchased him from following the 1909 season. During that 1909 season, the Pirates went with Bill Abstein at first base all season. Despite the fact he was a regular and they won the World Series, he was not well liked. Fans believed that he didn’t always give 100% and he wasn’t the smartest baseball player. After the season, the Pirates brought in two minor league first baseman to compete for the job, with Flynn eventually winning over Bud Sharpe. By 1911, future Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie took over the spot and Flynn became expendable.

Dale Coogan, 1950 first baseman. He made the Opening Day roster as a rookie, but by July he was sent back to the minors for more seasoning. The Pirates actually called him up in September 1950 and 1951, though he never played after that first July. He ended up spending the next two years in the Army and he wasn’t able to regain his skills after the time off, spending the rest of his career in the minors.

Alex McKinnon, first baseman on Opening Day in 1887, the first Pittsburgh game in NL history. The Alleghenys moved from the American Association to the NL following the 1886 season and they purchased McKinnon that December. He was hitting .340 through 48 games in 1887 when he came down with typhoid pneumonia. He ended up passing away 20 days after his last game with Pittsburgh. You can read a full bio of McKinnon here.