The Guardians are getting the next man up for their starting rotation and, should the weather hold out, that man is Logan Allen.
It’s become a little easier to know Allen than it was in the past, as Logan T. Allen is the only Logan Allen left on the Guardians. The other, Logan S. Allen, is now in the Rockies system. There can only be one Logan Allen on the Guardians (cue Highlander theme music), and with all respect to you, Logan Allen the First, pitching in the majors is a very hard thing. Let’s hope the Guardians’ 56th overall pick of the 2020 draft is up to the challenge of being the better of the Logan Allens.
In 17 games since debuting at Triple-A Columbus last year, 24-year-old Allen put up a 4.04 FIP and he had an 11.31/4.14 K/BB/9. However, in 2023, Allen has a 2.65 FIP and a 12.56/3.14 K/BB/9 in three starts. In that time, he’s also had a 14.3% swinging strike rate, which is helpful to determine quality of stuff in the minors. For context, that puts Allen in the top 10 of starting pitchers his age or younger in the International League in 2022-2023 for swinging strike rate. The former Florida International University Panther has been anchoring a Columbus rotation featuring Tanner Bibee and his 99 mph fastball, so it’s been unfairly easy for fans to overlook what he has to offer. Hopefully, that won’t be the case after today.
MLB Pipeline ranks Allen as the team’s eighth-best prospect, the Athletic’s Keith Law had him as the 14th-best, FanGraphs had him as fourth on the team and 57th in baseball, and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had him as Cleveland’s third-best and ranked him 53rd in all of baseball. In this case, it is helpful to read what Eric Longehagen wrote about him in FanGraphs’ annual writeup this year:
Allen’s fastball has other traits that help it punch above its weight, and he commands it with machine-like regularity to the locations in which it is most effective. He’s short, he gets way down the mound (which helps create shallow angle on the pitch), and even though he has a three-quarters arm slot, his hand position is more north/south on release, which helps him create backspin and ride on the fastball. It plays as an above-average offering even though Allen’s raw arm strength is comfortably below average. His split/changeup (it only has about 1,300 rpm of spin, definitely in split territory) has plus sinking action, but the direction of its lateral movement is highly variable. At times, it has typical sink and tail; at others, it has sink and careens toward Allen’s glove side like a slider. Speaking of the slider, Allen’s has gotten much better in pro ball. His arm angle makes it naturally tough on lefties but its utility is limited against righties, which is likely what caused Cleveland and Allen to work on a cutter that is still in the nascent stages of development.
Allen is, indeed, regularly throwing a cutter this spring, around 10% of the time, to go along with finding better command on his fastball than what he showed in Triple-A in 2022. Guardians Prospective provided a collection of some of his highlights, wherein you can see his fastball riding, his split-change dancing to confuse hitters and his slider sweeping away a lefty or two.
#Guardians 24yr old LHP prospect Logan Allen with nine more strikeouts today allowing just one run in his 3rd straight terrific start for Triple-A Columbus.— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) April 16, 2023
Line - 4.2(IP) 5H 1R 1ER 1BB 9SO (80 Pitches 54 Strikes)
2023 - 14.1(IP) 10H 2R 2ER 5BB 20SO 1.26 ERA#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/8RRIdc1jLB
Allen is particularly fascinating because of the divide among the public prospect evaluators as to whether he is more likely a back-end of the rotation or bullpen arm because of the lack of arm strength and shorter frame, or whether great command and the quality of his offspeed stuff gives him the ability to be a strong, mid-rotation starter. Having watched Allen and seen him hit 94 a handful of times, as well as seeing how that 92 mph fastball can sneak up on a hitter preparing for the split-change, I think there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his chances of being a viable No. 3 or No. 4 starting pitcher for the Guardians.
As we wring our hands about the early season struggles of the Guardians bats to score runs, we can comfort ourselves with the idea that more help is on the way to keep games close until the hitters can figure things out in pitchers like Logan Allen, and, in time and as needed, Tanner Bibee and Gavin Williams. After seeing Cleveland get shut down by a couple of soft-tossing lefties on Saturday, fans can enjoy rooting for their own version of the same type of pitcher to turn the tables on the Marlins and salvage a game from this three-game series.
No matter the case, I encourage you to watch to get a good look at how Allen’s split-change looks against major league hitters, count the number of cutters and sliders he throws, and see if that 92 mph fastball looks faster than that when he mixes it with his offspeed offerings. It will undoubtedly take Allen some time to adjust to the big leagues, just as it did when he arrived in Triple-A, but I’m looking forward to seeing him get that first taste.