Lance Berkman‘s return to from the disabled list is the last thing any Allen Craig owner wanted to hear, but the multi-position eligible power bat should still find enough time to be productive in fantasy leagues.
Currently, Craig is owned in just 61% of Yahoo! leagues, which is borderline criminal at this point. After starting at first base in Berkman’s absence, Craig is now eligible at 1B, 2B, and OF. With Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Berkman all being aging veterans, and John Jay being a left-handed hitter, Craig should still find enough time between the corner outfield positions and first base to receive enough plate appearances to remain valuable.
Mike Matheny stated that Jay could sit in favor of Beltran occasionally in order to get Craig’s bat in the lineup, which the Cardinals are certainly going to try to do after Craig has blasted five home runs in his first 10 games off the disabled list. Craig has picked up right where he left off in the October playoffs, which is great for anyone who held onto him as a keeper or played him during his initial return off the disabled list. While it would be nice for both the Cardinal offense and fantasy owners for him to play second base regularly and keep all of their biggest bats in the lineup every day, it seems as though Craig’s second base playing time has left along with the departure of Tony La Russa. Even so, he still maintains positional eligibility at second, and has as much power as any player at the position.
At this point, it is reasonable to expect Craig and Berkman to receive the same amount of playing time going forward, or at least comparable. Berkman will most likely get on base at a higher rate, but the power between the two should be similar going forward. ZiPS has Craig at just 13 home runs going forward and Berkman at 14, though I am probably slightly more bullish on both than ZiPS is. In contrast, Berkman is owned in 91% of Yahoo! leagues, despite the fact that most of their standard fantasy numbers should be similar going forward. Name value is likely the largest driver of the disparity in ownership between the two, so grabbing Craig or trading for him is recommended at this point if he is seen as available.
In 389 career plate appearances, Craig has a .297 average, .241 ISO, and 20 home runs with a nice 6 steals to go along with the incredible power. While the power is solid, this is likely a bit inflated by a relatively small sample size, but he still possesses enough power to be in the upper tier of second base home run totals if given enough playing time. Look for Craig to receive enough plate appearances in the middle of a potent lineup, as he continues to hit for a decent average with tons of power.