The Pirates’ first-round pick in the 2016 Draft after an outstanding career at Wake Forest, Craig started out pro ball as an advanced hitter who drew a ton of walks and rarely struck out. In 2018 as he reached Double-A, he flipped the script and became more of a power-over-hit player, something that continued as he punished the Triple-A baseball but saw his overall approach regress.
While Craig has hit 43 home runs over his last two seasons, his strikeout rate has crept up as well and he whiffed in 26.6 percent of his plate appearances in 2019. As he’s been thinking lift and homers, there’s been more length in his swing and that’s led to him having trouble with premium stuff. There was hope he could be a good right-handed hitter who could hit lefties and good fastballs off the bench, but he actually had reverse splits last year and struggled against southpaws.
Craig is pretty much a first baseman only, but the Pirates started giving him some work in right field in 2019, largely because he’s blocked by Josh Bell in Pittsburgh. That will continue in 2020 and Craig has worked to drop weight and improve his athleticism as a result. If he can work to tighten his swing back up, he could still be a solid power bat off the bench and hit enough homers to play every day if there’s an opening.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
Will the real Will Craig please stand up? A star at Wake Forest, Craig entered pro ball as a first-round pick who was an advanced college performer at the plate, one who could hit for average and get on-base and he fit that profile during his first full season. When he got to Double-A for year two, however, he tapped into his raw power consistently, but at the expense of his hit tool. He capped off a year that saw him lead the organization in home runs and RBIs with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.
Few doubted that the big, strong Craig had power to tap into as a professional, but they also knew that he wasn't focusing on that part of his game, instead relying on his ability to work counts and make contact. His decision to work on driving the ball did lead to run production, but also saw his strikeout rate go up and his walk rate diminish. The Pirates aren't overly upset that he's likely more power over hit now because, as an at least below-average runner, singles and walks aren't quite as effective.
As Craig changed his offensive profile for power, he was also working on his defense at first base, where it now looks like he'll be a solid defender with good hands and a strong arm. There's a chance Craig could find a balance between his old and new selves at the plate, but the Pirates would be happy to see that kind of power production from the infield corner spot moving forward.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
Craig nearly won the ACC triple crown in his junior year at Wake Forest and as is often the case, he was a college performer who saw his Draft stock rise. The Pirates loved his advanced approach at the plate and took him with the 22nd overall pick, in the first round. In his first year-plus as a pro, he controlled the strike zone well, as expected, but the power hadn't materialized. That script flipped in 2018 as he started landing balls over the fence, but didn't draw as many walks.
The Pirates, for their part, are not overly concerned with that part of Craig's game. They see a first-round pick who went straight to a pitching-friendly Florida State League for his first full season and turned in a solid performance. Craig hit for average and drew a ton of walks -- his career on-base percentage of .386 heading into 2018 speaks to that -- and he did start tapping into his raw power up a level in the Double-A Eastern League. He's a below-average runner with limited range defensively who is now a first baseman only after seeing time at both infield corners at the start of his career.
That defensive limitation does put more pressure on his bat. He's going to have to step it up a notch, particularly in terms of driving the ball and run production, if he wants to develop into an everyday player at first base.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 35 | Arm: 60 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50
As the 2016 Draft approached, teams who liked college performers were taking a long look at Craig, who nearly won the Atlantic Coast Conference triple crown. The Pirates felt his bat would play at an infield corner and took him No. 22 overall. While he struggled out of the gate during his pro debut, he controlled the strike zone extremely well and finished strongly, something that carried over to a successful, if unspectacular, first full season.
Craig's poor start initially was more surface than anything, though he didn't show the power he projects to have. He finished with more walks than strikeouts and finished second in the New York-Penn League in on-base percentage. He swung the bat very well at instructs, showing the kind of player the Pirates hope he'll be at the highest level, displaying good bat-to-ball skills and bat speed, which gives the organization confidence the pop will be there. A below-average defender at third, albeit with a plus arm (he closed for Wake Forest), he started seeing time at first base last fall at instructs and he played there exclusively in 2017.
As a right-right first baseman, the pressure will be on Craig to produce offensively. The power will have to improve for him to fit the profile well.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 35 | Arm: 60 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50
A 37th-round pick by the Royals out of high school, Craig contended for the Atlantic Coast Conference triple crown while winning league player of the year honors as a sophomore in 2015. He chased the ACC triple crown again with even better numbers this spring and hit his way into the first round, territory no Wake Forest player has reached since the Padres took Allan Dykstra 23rd overall in 2008. "If he was body beautiful," one scout said, "he'd be the first player taken."
He draws comparisons to Billy Butler, expressing compliments about his hitting ability and also concerns about his lack of athleticism and a frame that already carries 235 pounds. Craig makes consistent hard contact with a pretty right-handed swing that generates impressive bat speed. His ability to backspin balls helps give him 20-homer potential in the big leagues, and his mastery of the strike zone should enable him to post high on-base percentages as well.
Craig has reached 94 mph on the mound as a co-closer for the Demon Deacons, so he has more than enough arm for third base. But he's already a well below-average runner and figures to get slower as he gets older. Most scouts think he'll eventually move across the diamond to first base and may do so before he reaches the Majors.