There aren’t many position players in the Cleveland Indians farm system who improved their stock in 2016 more than center fielder Greg Allen.
While fellow 2014 draft pick Bradley Zimmer has received all the deserved buzz, it’s been sixth round pick Allen who has been producing consistently impressive results at every level he’s played.
Allen began his season in High-A Lynchburg, leading off for what was likely the most high-powered offensive lineup in the entire minor leagues this past season. With mashers like Anthony Santander, Bobby Bradley and Yu-Cheng Chang behind him, getting on base was a priority and Allen did an incredible job, batting .298 for the Hillcats while also walking in 13.4 percent of his plate appearances, leading the entire Carolina League in on base percentage at a ridiculous .424 clip. He also was hit by a Brandon Guyer-esque 31 pitches.
Allen made sure to take his extra bases as well, leading the entire Indians organization in steals with 45 on the year, getting caught 13 times (77.5 percent success rate).
So what was the end result of getting on base and putting himself in scoring position so regularly?
A TON of runs scored.
Allen didn’t just lead the Indians minor league system in runs scored in 2016, he led ALL of minor league baseball with a whopping 119 runs. Hell, the second place finisher in all of baseball (Phillies #6 prospect Dylan Cozens) scored 13 fewer runs than him. If you factor in the American League, Allen would have only been behind Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson and Mookie Betts in runs scored (despite playing in 30 fewer games).
Allen was promoted to Double-A Akron following the All-Star break in late July and he didn’t miss a beat despite the increase in competition, slashing .290/.399/.441 from the top of the RubberDucks batting order and helping lead them on a playoff run which resulted in an Eastern League championship.
With an offensive performance like that, what’s the catch? Perhaps it’s his defense?
Allen doesn’t only grade as a plus defender, he won the Rawlings MiLB Gold Glove for center field in 2016, which is only given out to one center fielder in all of minor league baseball.
Following the championship season for Akron, Allen was invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League, which just concluded regular season play yesterday. The AFL is an opportunity for top prospects at the higher minor league levels to showcase their talents for an extra two months of baseball.
So how’d he do?
Unsurprisingly, Allen led the AFL in stolen bases with 12. His batting average dropped due to a slump in his final week but he still finished with a solid .269/.380/.449 clip. He was named Player of the Week once. Perhaps most surprising was his power surge, as he slugged three home runs, good for a sixth place tie among all hitters.
So is there anything the San Diego State product can’t do? Well, if I had any criticism of him whatsoever, Allen doesn’t seem to drive the ball particularly well. The three home runs in the AFL were nice, but he only hit seven in total during the regular MiLB season (and seven last year as well). Also, for a player with his speed, he should be collecting more extra base hits. He only had 23 doubles in 2016 (and seven triples) so there’s always something he could be working to improve.
Allen will likely begin 2016 in Double-A Akron but if the Indians are feeling aggressive, he could start the year in Triple-A Columbus. Either way, don’t be surprised if he’s promoted to Triple-A sooner rather than later. There’s a very good chance he makes an appearance in Cleveland at some point in 2017 if he can continue performing at this rate.
The switch-hitting speedster projects to be the picture perfect lead-off hitter due to his speed, on base percentage and relatively low strikeout rate (13.6 percent across all three levels in 2016).
It’s time to get excited about the future, folks!