In a somewhat, maybe not all that surprising move, the Indians called-up OF Greg Allen from Double-A Akron to make his debut as rosters expanded in September. He’s the second player from the Indians 2014 draft where they also nabbed starting CF Bradley Zimmer in the first round. Zimmer beat Allen to the majors this year but some think that is is possible Allen could have been the player called up in May to take over center field when Zimmer was called up had he not been hurt. Allen fractured his right hammate bone on May 7 after getting hit by a pitch and didn’t make it back to Akron until July. At the time of his injury he was hitting .291/.380 with nine steals in nine chances.
Allen getting the call to the majors in September after suffering that injury and over other outfielders like Tyler Naquin says a lot about the organization’s view of a player who was probably the second best talent in the failed Jonathan Lucroy trade last summer.
While his offensive ceiling is lower than Zimmer’s in terms of power, Allen offers a lot of the same skill set as Zimmer in terms of game changing defense in center field and on the bases as well as the ability to get on base.
It’s cliche, but Allen’s call is a testament to his skill level and work ethic. He came back in July and struggled getting back into it but slashed .298/.371/.401 with nine steals in 11 chances in August before the September 1 call up. It’s extremely easy for prospects to come back from an injury – especially a serious one that affects hitters – to try to make up month’s work of development at a time to help regain whatever time and experience they lost. Luckily, Allen didn’t need to do that and he didn’t need to regain speed or defense from this one.
“There’s a lot of injuries guys get,” Allen said, “It’s one you don’t wish on anyone. You just hope to come back stronger from it. Our medical and training staff did a wonderful job helping me get back to where I am now. I’m really appreciative of that. I missed two months of time and you can’t make up two months in a day. The best way to go about it s focus on now, one pitch at a time, day-by-day.”
At the time (August 12), Allen had only had about a month’s worth of at bats back from the injury but after a rough July was already starting to see a turnaround from an injury that can be a huge detriment to a lot of recovering hitters, though maybe that Allen isn’t a power hitter helped him get back to his true level. But it did potentially give him some perspective and probably has made him appreciate the call up coming this soon a little more. His journey this year has taken him from Arizona to Akron, back to Arizona and now Cleveland.
“As you get a little bit older and get more experience and are around different coaches, you learn a lot,” Allen said. “This is the first injury I’ve had that kept me out for a long time. It’s all a learning experience and something to grow from. I had injuries in high school but never one where I missed that much time in baseball. You have to come back ready mentally and physically. More than anything you learn to be patient. Being on the sideline it gives you a different perspective with guys who miss time and allows you to relate to other players.”
It doesn’t look as is Zimmer will miss much time after he left Saturday’s game with a potential head injury but Allen was in immediately to replace him and got his first start Sunday, which isn’t a surprise given that Terry Francona is usually more trusting of rookies when they’re superior defensive players. That’s why Zimmer stuck through slumps and he trusts Giovanny Urshela. Allen offers potentially even better defense in center field than Zimmer, a close to equal throwing arm, potentially a better chance to take advantage of his top end speed on the bases with his ability to take a walk and make better contact than Zimmer.
Allen’s call up this September was a bit of a surprise to some, but not all. As stated, he had a chance to come up before Zimmer in May, but now the Indians were obviously ready to start his service time (although the Indians would have had to add him to the 40 man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft) and only use him as a pinch running or defensive option, barring injury. What they do with him next year will be interesting given that and that he’s already skipped Triple-A but there may not be any room for him on the 25 man roster to start 2018 the way the roster is constructed.
Some have touted Allen as a potential Kenny Lofton type player, which is an astronomical comparison. He probably won’t hit as well as Lofton but offers plenty of valuable skills to any team with his defense, speed and ability to get on base. He knows his speed and defense never slump.
“I’m just doing what I can to help the team in any situation,” Allen said after the August 12 game. “I didn’t do much at the plate. Those guys (pitcher Luig Lugo) did a tremendous job and I just want to pick them up when I can.”
Allen is clearly a team player, mature yet certainly has quite the sense of humor that will fit right into this Indians clubhouse as he settles in and clearly the Indians value him. And they should.