Greg Allen kind of killed the Twins this past weekend. It wasn’t quite Yasiel Puig’s felonious assault, but 5-for-12 and a couple extra-base hits certainly helped the Indians seal the series victory. Plus his bunt hit in Sunday’s game really jump-started a rally. Even if you’re generally hateful towards the bunt, a speedy guy like Allen can make it work more than most to create havoc. He was great all around, though, whether defensively or at the plate, and really has been for quite a while now.
Which is why Greg Allen should be an everyday outfielder.
This is a hard prospect to make a reality, simply because you have to find a place for him. Earlier in the season it felt like there weren’t enough good outfielders, just a bunch of prospects and has-beens that would have to be cobbled together to find a cohesive group. With Oscar Mercado and now Yasiel Puig, at least for this year we’re set every day in two slots. Left field still has some space though, with Tyler Naquin just now coming off a hot streak and Jordan Luplow on the shelf for a bit it’s down to just Allen as the other outfielder. Allen should not be relegated to the role of “the other guy,” though.
Allen’s season numbers are pretty unimpressive if we’re being honest. A .252/.313/.412 slash is not what you want out of anyone, never mind a regular starter. Though the Indians are playing a guy with a near-identical wRC+ to Allen’s every day (87, right there with Jason Kipnis), so it’s not exactly unprecedented for this team. That slash line covers up some nice improvements, though — Allen has been great basically since the calendar flipped from April. Since May 1 he’s popping a .312/.373/.516 line which is a 131 wRC+. That trails only Carlos Santana among Indians, albeit in 308 fewer plate appearances.
That is a fortunate sample to take, and we can cut up Allen’s stats all kinds of different ways. You can find just as many good stretches as bad if you work hard enough. One encouraging one last year from August to the end of the year he became a starting outfielder pretty much full-time, playing 44 games and hitting 297/.376/.398. That was encouraging, but a bad April soured people until his play became a necessity, and he’s turned back into that hitter since May. He’s hit a couple dingers this year too, keeping him comfortably over a .400 slugging percentage. He’s played consistently for the first time the last couple months, posted a 98 wRC+ since last August (279 PA) even if you include that hideous April. There’s certainly something there.
The offense isn’t why I want more of Allen though. That he’s proved himself to be something resembling a competent bat certainly helps, but two other aspects make him very attractive to the Indians. First is that defense, which has proven to be truly sterling. He leads all Indian outfielders in Statcast’s outs above average at four and his ultimate zone rating per 150 innings is 11.5, which would rank sixth among all outfielders if he’d played enough innings. This is great news for a team that’s also discovered a fantastic true center fielder in Mercado.
The other aspect that demands attention, I already mentioned. Allen brings chaos, dynamism, the insane scrambling uncertainty that a superb athlete can force on a defense. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t chart all that well, but it does look amazing when it turns into, say, a rally-igniting bunt single. They have this same dynamism in Mercado, who has been proven to be a legit major league hitter. Allen doesn’t have the season stats to stack up to Mercado right now, but as mentioned before, when he’s played consistently he’s shown to be able to stand up to this pitching, whether this year after April or late last season.
It could be that some kind of worm has turned for Allen, that he’s comfortable with consistent playing time and he’s growing into his strength. If that’s the case then there’s no reason to keep him out of the lineup or off the field, especially now that Naquin’s hot streak has cooled off. He may be an answer for the future out of necessity once Puig leaves at the end of the season, but he’s doing himself and the Indians a favor by looking more and more like an answer for right now.