Allen Craig, Quadruple-A Slugger

If there is one good thing to take from the end of this season for the St. Louis Cardinals—there is one good thing, I counted—it's Allen Craig's startling and relentless effort to shed the AAAA label he earned by getting off to a truly terrible start that mostly involved hitting a lot of line drives at a lot of defenders. (Veterans know not to do this, but rookies can't be expected to understand immediately that balls caught on the fly are automatic outs.)

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In September he's been truly outstanding, but even since the All-Star Break he's been a Major League hitter. Since returning to the team for his first extended work in July he's hit .286/.352/.500, with four home runs and 17 RBI in 84 at-bats. That's an outstanding impression of an MLB-caliber right fielder—much better, unfortunately, than the impression he does of an MLB-caliber right fielder on defense.

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Trading Ryan Ludwick may not have been anything but shifting deck chairs on the Cardinals' doomed 2010 voyage, but it marks a turning point in the team's understanding of Allen Craig; if he's not a major part of the outfield (and third base, if they're feeling really heady) picture in 2011 it will all stem from the moment they decided Ludwick might be replaceable after all, and that Allen Craig might not really be aiming at the third baseman on purpose.

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