The Pirates announced Friday that they’ve reinstated right-hander JT Brubaker from the Covid-19-related injured list and, in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, designated first baseman Will Craig for assignment. Brubaker was placed on the Covid list earlier this week when he went through intake testing after spending a few days on the bereavement list.
It’s been a tough week for Craig, who’ll unfortunately have a tough time living down last week’s defensive gaffe that saw Javier Baez dupe him into a rundown between first base and home plate when Erik Gonzalez sailed a throw from third base. The ensuing play was one of the more bizarre sequences in recent memory, resulting in a run for the Cubs and, somehow, Baez standing on second base after hitting a grounder to third that was both fielded cleanly and at least caught by the first baseman.
Of course, there’s far more to Craig than that one play. The 26-year-old was the 22nd overall pick of the 2016 draft and for several years rated as one of the Buccos’ more promising farmhands. He’s batted just .203/.261/.281 in a small sample of 20 Major League contests, but Craig clocked three homers and a pair of doubles in 29 Triple-A plate appearances before getting the call to the big leagues this year.
Craig has spent parts of two seasons in Triple-A and another in Double-A, producing eerily similar slash lines: .248/.321/.448 in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting and .248/.323/.446 in a much more hitter-friendly Triple-A environment. It’s not the production the Pirates hoped for after he mashed at a .347/.461/.623 clip while starring for Wake Forest, but scouting reports on Craig as he was making his way through the Pittsburgh system credited him with a potentially average hit tool, above-average power and a plus throwing arm.
The Pirates have designated Craig once in the past, and he went unclaimed on waivers at that point. Because he’s already cleared waivers once, he’d have the ability to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency if he wants a fresh start in a new organization. The Bucs will have a week to either trade Craig or attempt to pass him through waivers a second time.