2017 has been a treat for those who closely follow the Cleveland Indians’ minor league prospects. Bradley Zimmer and Yandy Diaz – Cleveland’s #2 and #12 prospects according to FanGraphs, respectively – both made their MLB debuts earlier this season. Erik Gonzalez, #8 on the same list, has seen his first significant MLB action this season.
Now, Greg Allen, ranked #4, will also join the list.
With Allen joining the team, four of Cleveland’s universal top-15 prospects will have received their first MLB experience this season (save for Gonzalez’s 17 PA in 2016). Considering the team is chasing a World Series, so much youth being injected into the team is incredible. In Allen’s case, his presence will be a perfect fit for the Indians down the stretch.
Much like Bradley Zimmer, Allen makes most of his living with his legs. At the bare minimum, he’ll serve as a elite pinch runner/defensive replacement late in games. For his minor league career, Allen has stolen 145 bases in 181 attempts, for a very strong 80% success rate. His speed makes him an impact defender in the outfield, providing elite range evidenced here:
To boot, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs assigned a 60-grade (elite) to his arm strength. Between his arm and his legs, Allen can more than comfortably profile at any of the outfield positions.
The real question with Allen has always been what kind of offensive production he’ll provide. If he can hit enough, he has the upside of someone like Michael Bourn in his prime, where his floor resembles something closer to Jarrod Dyson.
Entering 2017, things were encouraging: Allen posted a 120 wRC+ or better in his stops between Lake County, Lynchburg, and Akron, giving scouts reason to believe he’d hold his own at the plate. He profiled as a switch-hitter, with excellent contact ability (career 12.4 K%) and plate discipline (career 10.2 BB%). While he never has hit for much power (16 career home runs), his contact and on-base ability allow him to use his legs as a weapon. Certainly, his profile convinced the Milwaukee Brewers that he could be a viable MLB player last season, as they wanted Allen as the #2 piece behind Francisco Mejia in the botched Jonathon Lucroy trade.
Just as the hype was building with Allen, a rough 2017 has dampened some expectations. He started strongly in April posting a .760 OPS with 8 steals on 8 attempts, but then broke a bone in his wrist in early May and missed eight weeks. It apparently took Allen some time to adjust once he returned, as he only managed a .554 in 21 July games. The good news is that in August, Allen is back up to a .775 OPS, which undoubtedly helped the Indians make the decision to promote him. Still, it remains to be seen if Allen can hit for any semblance of power in the aftermath of his wrist injuries. Wrist problems are known to negatively impact power, and with such little power to begin with, it’s a potential concern.
Allen’s promotion is important, as without it, 2017 would have essentially been a lost season for someone who, at 24, was already an older prospect. There’s no telling what will happen if he impresses in his debut, especially given the injuries to Cleveland’s outfielders. Michael Brantley remains sidelined with an ankle problem, and Brandon Guyer was removed from yesterday’s game with a neck issue – if those linger, there could be a spot for Allen post-September. That would be unlikely, but given his speed, defense, and switch-hitting ability, he’d be as good of a replacement as the Indians could find. For now, Allen can only do his best to impress with the chances he’s given in September, and take things from there.