Will Craig

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William Isaac Craig

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Biographical Information[edit]

Will Craig was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round of the 2016 amateur draft, with the 22nd overall pick, out of Wake Forest University. Three years earlier, in the 2013 amateur draft, he was a 37th round selection by the Kansas City Royals but chose to attend college instead of signing.

He made his professional debut in 2016 with the West Virginia Black Bears of the New York-Penn League, hitting .280/.412/.362 in 63 games. He played exclusively at third base but committed 16 errors for a fielding percentage of .889. In 2017, the Bucs moved him to first base as he played with the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. In 123 games, he hit .271/.373/.371, with 6 homers and 61 RBIs, also scoring 59 runs. In 2018, he moved up to the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League, where he showed some serious power for the first time, banging 30 doubles and 20 homers in 132 games and driving in 102 runs, a league-leading total. His batting line was .248/.321/.448 and he was named both a mid-season and post-season All-Star.

He was named to the roster of the National League team for the 2019 Futures Game; he was having a strong power show in AAA but was being blocked by MLB All-Star Josh Bell at 1B, preventing his call-up. However, when Bell slumped badly in 2020, it gave the Pirates a motivation to give Craig a shot, which they did in late August. However, he appeared in just 2 games, going 0 for 4.

After Bell was traded following the 2020 season, it opened more opportunity, although it was veteran Colin Moran who initially moved over from third base to take over for Josh. However, Craig did get his first real shot early in the 2021 season when Moran was injured. Unfortunately, the first time most non-Pirates fans heard his name was due to his involvement in one of the most bizarre plays ever seen on a baseball diamond. Playing the Chicago Cubs on May 27th, there were two outs in the 3rd inning with Willson Contreras on second and Javier Baez batting. Baez hit what looked like a routine grounder to third base, which was fielded by Erik Gonzalez, who threw to Craig at first base, but his throw was wild, pulling him off the base towards home plate. Baez immediately applied the brakes, but Craig, instead of retreating and touching the bag, chased him back towards home plate. The two had practically reached home when Craig noticed that Contreras, who had never slowed down, was barreling home. He flipped the ball to C Michael Perez, but his throw was high, and Contreras slid safely under him. However, that run would not have counted had the Pirates simply tagged Baez, or thrown to first base before he could reach it. But when the Bucs were distracted by Contreras, Baez headed back to first, which had been left uncovered. 2B Adam Frazier belatedly tried to get there, but did not make it as Perez's throw to him landed in right field. So the run counted, and Baez was not only safe at first, but made it all the way to second base. The official scorer decided to give an error to Craig (with an assist to Gonzalez) to account for Baez reaching first and Contreras scoring, and another error to Perez to justify Baez reaching second base. Craig acknowledged after the game that he had made a blunder, saying he had lost his mind when he had seen Baez heading back towards home, but only realized his mistake after he had relayed the ball to Perez. It was ironic for a former minor league Gold Glove winner.

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