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Allen Craig's Impact: St. Louis Cardinals First Baseman Can Help Team by Staying on Field

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COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals ensured that a core of players would be in place when they offered long-term contracts to some of their most talented employees. Allen Craig received one of those contracts based on his potential.

If the Cardinals are going to be successful in 2013, that potential will need to be realized.

No one doubts Allen Craig's abilities when he is on the field. His talents have earned him nicknames ranging from "The Wrench" to "That Amazing Whacker Guy." He has earned a spot in the middle of a powerful lineup, between sluggers Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. He is a run-producing machine with brilliant power displays and a solid batting average. In 2012, Craig finished 19th in the voting for the National League MVP.

What does it take for Craig to become an MVP mainstay? Simply put: health.

Craig was able to take the field 119 times in 2012 and was the force everyone anticipated when he was there. During that limited run, he was able to crush 22 home runs, 35 doubles and 92 runs batted in. Those numbers are impressive, but left the Cardinals with a big hole in the lineup for the other 43 games last year. Asking Craig to step onto the playing field for 150 games should not be a stretch of the imagination for a player the team will depend on.

Should Craig be able to reach the 150-game plateau, his counting stats look much closer to MVP-type production. Keeping the pace he set last year, he would reach 27 home runs, 42 doubles, and 115 runs batted in. Taking into account that his prime years are in front of him, Craig is poised to be a premier player.

The Cardinals need that production. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are aging stars. Oscar Taveras will need time to adjust to major-league pitching when he arrives. Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Matt Carpenter and David Freese all figure to be complimentary pieces for a player with the potential of Craig.

The Cardinals have every chance to be successful in 2013. That success hinges largely on the shoulders of Allen Craig.

Bill Ivie can be found writing about the Cardinals at i70baseball as well as here on Yahoo! Sports. You can find him talking baseball on Twitter regularly.

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