I was able to catch up with Springfield 3B and Baseball America’s 15th ranked Cardinal prospect Allen Craig and ask him about hitting, defense, and the importance of winning at the minor league level.
Interview after the jump.
How would you describe Allen Craig, the person and the ballplayer?
I would say that I’m a fairly laid back person that goes with the flow of things most of the time. My family is really important to me so I enjoy spending time with them and my girlfriend as much as possible. I like listening to music, hanging out with the guys on the team, playing video games and shooting some hoops at various gyms when we are on the road lifting (just shooting no actual playing basketball ha ha)….it is relaxing. As a ballplayer I just try to play my game and get better everyday. I work as hard as I possibly can in the off season to get in shape for the season, and I’m constantly working on my hitting and defense. I really want to be the guy that everyone can count on to get the job done. Other than that…I just play.
You’ve hit over 20 homers in the past two seasons, in A ball and now AA. Would you describe yourself as a power hitter?
I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as being only a power hitter. I really strive to become a well rounded hitter that can hit for average, drive the ball to all fields, and hit some homeruns in the process. Hitting homeruns is great, but its something that I definitely don’t try to do every time I come up to the plate.
How would you describe your hitting mechanics?
Mechanics are a little difficult to describe via email but I would say that I have a slightly open stance and try to stand as balanced as I possible in the box. I also have a mini “Sheffield” waggle with my bat before the pitcher delivers the ball. My bat waggle isn’t nearly as violent as his, and I do it just to get my hands ready to hit. As for my swing, I would say that I have a little bit of loft in it and I do a good job of keeping my hands back. Keeping my hands back helps me stay back on off-speed pitches.
When you find yourself not swinging well, is it because you get out of whack mechanically or is it more of a mental thing?
When I’m not swinging the bat very well it could be because of a number of reasons. The challenge is finding out why I’m struggling and what adjustments need to be made. I could be struggling because the pitchers are just making great pitches…It could be because my mechanics are out of whack….or it could be because I wasn’t thinking right while I was at the plate. I have pretty much gone through all of these three reasons this season and have done a pretty decent job turning things around. Having Derrick May and Dan Radisson for hitting coaches definitely helps a lot when it comes to making adjustments mechanically and mentally.
What’s the biggest difference between A ball pitchers and AA pitchers?
The biggest difference between the pitchers in A ball and AA is command of their pitches. Last year in Palm Beach I definitely saw more fastballs because the pitchers didn’t have as good of command of their off-speed pitches so they had to come back at me with their fastball. I’m almost certain that every AA hitter would give you that answer to this question. Being able to throw all of your pitches for strikes in any count is huge and makes it difficult for the hitters. Part of the adjustment that I’ve made this season is being able to think the game a little better which as helped give me a better idea of what the pitchers might be throwing.
Who has been the toughest pitcher you’ve faced so far this season?
I would say Vin Mazzaro from the A’s has been the best pitcher I’ve faced this season. He has great stuff and had command of all his pitches.
You have played shortstop, left field, third base and first base at Cal. You’ve also played a little left field in Springfield. Do you feel like third base is your “true position”?
Yeah, I do feel as though third base is my true position. I work on my defense at third base everyday and have played almost every game this season and last season there. I see myself as a third baseman, but I also take pride in the fact that I can play other positions well. Versatility is always a good thing to have. I would hope that If the Cardinals wanted my bat in the lineup that they wouldn’t be afraid to put me in another position.
Suddenly you are finding your team just a game back of NW Arkansas. In the minors it’s usually about getting to the next rung in the system, but how important is winning at the level you are at to you?
As I write this we are currently tied for first with NW Arkansas. Winning is always important because that is how you are ultimately judged. It’s important to put up good numbers in the minor leagues, but it is just as important to be on a winning team and to know that what you did help the team win games.
My thanks go out to Allen for taking the time and thought in answering my questions.