COMMENTARY | Major League Baseball is overflowing with young, talented players on every team. Some have become household names around the country while others have simply captured the minds of their local fans. When you put them all together, Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals stands out as the best.
I know what you're thinking. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg...with names like that, how can I say Craig is better? Sure, they are flashy players that everyone wants to get behind but Craig is the real deal. We are not talking potential here; we are talking a solid player that has both the on-field and off-field prowess to be put in this discussion.
Craig is a run-producing machine that is hitting cleanup for his team. Last season, he was responsible for driving in 92 runs batted in while playing in 119 games. His missed time last season appears to be behind him, giving him the opportunity to make a run at the MVP Award in 2013.
A true team-player, Craig has put in time at seven positions for the Cardinals since he arrived in the big leagues in 2010. He has never turned away from a challenge, even when asked to play positions he had never played before. His desire to win has far outlasted his desire for stardom and he has shown that every time the team has asked him to step outside of his comfort zone.
Now there's a word that you don't hear very often when you read about big-league ball players. Allen Craig is humble. He accepted a five year, $31 million contract extension recently and did so gratefully citing financial security as a motive. Statements about probably being vastly underpaid for his contributions by the end of the contract have become common during interviews of the slugger. He doesn't shy away from that fact, knowing that the team believed in him enough to offer a long-term deal. He is grateful for that fact.
The Pujols Factor
If you doubt what the Cardinals see in the young man and why I can say that he is the best young player in the game, I ask you to take note of this fact: it was Allen Craig's ability at a young age that allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to stand firm and watch Albert Pujols leave. They knew that they had a player in Craig that could continue to produce at a level offensively that losing possibly the greatest player to ever grace a baseball field in St. Louis was not as terrifying as it sounds.
Look no further than the opening series of 2013 to see what Allen Craig is capable of. After banging his knee, the same one that required surgery two years ago, into a wall chasing a foul ball, Craig not only stayed in the game, he made a difficult catch to end that inning and played every inning of the 16 inning game against the Diamondbacks on April 3rd, 2013. His knee was bleeding enough that you could see it through his pant leg and he paced in right field until the inning ended and he could talk with the trainers.
The Cardinals let a superstar walk away in order to allow one of the most tenacious, run-producing, and humble hitters in the game develop and perform.
Who is the best player in Major League Baseball Today? I submit to you Allen Thomas Craig.
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