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Scutaro and Craig: Waiver Wire

Marco Scutaro (Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 19 percent owned)

While the Red Sox seem to be wilting a bit in the season’s final days, Marco Scutaro is trending in the opposite direction. After missing a week of action in mid-August due to a stiff back, Scutaro has been consistently in the lineup and has been hitting well ever since. His .325/.383/.482 line since his return actually undersells how good he’s been lately, as he has hit .436/.489/.641 in the 10 games he has started since September 1.

His recent run of great form is, as many runs of great form are, built on an inflated BABIP — .425 over the last 12 games — but there’s more to Scutaro’s success than simply getting luckier of late. His strikeouts have decreased steadily in the second half of the season, which means he’s putting the ball into play more often, which, in turn, made his spike in BABIP even better for owners.

While Scutaro won’t bat .425 on balls in play forever, his first half BABIP of .267 was due to rise, and he is racking up line drives at a better than average rate. It would not surprise me to see his September BABIP above .300 at month’s end, provided his line-drive rate doesn’t suddenly plummet. As long as that doesn’t happen, his BA will be an asset to anyone in need of a MI, but he should also contribute in both R and a few RBI.

Allen Craig (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned)

We have now reached the point of the season where any injury, no matter how trifling it may seem, could be a season-ending injury. So it is with the hand injury Matt Holliday suffered late in Tuesday night’s game. If this were June or July, Holliday would take a few days off to let the swelling subside, then the team would reevaluate to see if he needed a stay on the disabled list, but considering that the time it’s going to take for the swelling to go down equals about half the remaining games, the Cards may well choose to shut Holliday down for the year.

The beneficiary of St. Louis’ left field vacancy is likely to be Allen Craig, another of the Cardinals young players whose season has been something of a jumble due to injuries. Craig missed 15 days early in the season with a strained groin, then a subsequent 63 days in the summer with a knee contusion. In his one full, healthy month, Craig started 17 games and hit .350/.420/.550. Obviously we can’t simply extrapolate that month out and say what a full season would look like, but the fact remains that when Craig has been healthy and in the lineup, he has been productive for the Cards.

Craig hit fifth on Wednesday, behind Pujols and Berkman in the heart of the Cardinals’ order. If Tony LaRussa continues to put him in that spot, it bodes well for his RBI chances as pitchers could certainly pitch around one or both of the other two — depending on the situation — to face Craig. If he can take advantage of those opportunities, his numbers will be strong heading into the end of the season. He also offers lineup versatility as he appeared in eight games at second base earlier in the year.

There is one caveat with Craig. The Cardinals are 4.5 games behind the Braves in the wild card race and just 5.5 behind the Brewers in the divisional race. Holliday is almost certain to miss the entire series against the Phillies, but if the team can gain ground on either opponent, setting up a real race over the last 12 games of the season, there will be a real incentive to get Holliday back. The extent of Holliday’s injury is definitely a factor here as well, but if the Cardinals are within 2-3 games of the Braves with a week to play and Holliday is anything resembling healthy, it may be hard to keep him off the field. In that case, Craig’s playing time becomes spotty once again. I don’t find this scenario particularly likely, but it’s worth watching if you choose to pick up Craig.