Greg Allen was originally a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians back in 2014 out of San Diego State University. He’s a 24-year old switch-hitting outfielder who stands 6’0″ and weighs 175 pounds. The California native spent most of 2017 at Double-A Akron though missed time with a broken Hamate bone. He did receive a September call-up to the big leagues as well, appearing in 25 games for the Tribe and even making the playoff roster as a defensive replacement/pinch runner.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Greg Allen has a very particular set of skills that are quite obvious to anyone that watches him play: he’s fast and is great defensively in center field. These two skills are why the Cleveland Indians called Allen up in September despite no experience at Triple-A. In fact, Allen has only 108 games at the Double-A level in his career.
One could easily argue that Allen is actually the best defensive center fielder on the Tribe’s 40-man roster, even ahead of Bradley Zimmer. Like Zimmer, Allen is a beast on the bathpaths, stealing 30, 46, 45, and 25 bases in his four years in the organization. He’d almost certainly have approached 40 stolen bases again in 2017 had he not missed so much time with injury.
Allen also is no slouch with the bat. He has little power but he’s shown a knack for getting on base in previous years, thanks to a solid walk rate and average in the upper .200s. He posted an outstanding .416 on-base percentage in 2016, a number that was actually higher than his slugging percentage (.413). Things weren’t quite as rosy though in 2017 as he posted a mere .345 OBP in 76 games minor league games. His walk rate dipped below seven-percent while his strikeout rate was a career high.
The switch-hitter has proven to be solid from both sides of the plate, posting a .758 OPS as a right-handed hitter (vs LHP) and a .750 OPS as a left-handed hitter (vs RHP) in his minor league career. He has yet to show any power, however, hitting just 16 home runs in four seasons.
Where does he go from here?
2017 was an odd year for Greg Allen. On the plus side, he reached the major leagues and even played in the playoffs, quite the feat for the soon to be 25-year-old. On the downside, he struggled with injury and replicating his huge 2016 offensive numbers. On paper, he wasn’t a top ten prospect in 2017 by any stretch, but thankfully for him and the Cleveland Indians, it’s not all about what’s on paper.
Allen appears healthy and a hamate bone injury shouldn’t have any lingering effects on him for 2018. He entered Spring Training with a shot at possibly making the big league roster as a backup, especially with Brandon Guyer and Michael Brantley recovering from offseason injuries. However, for as good as Allen can be in the outfield and on the bases, he absolutely needs some time in Triple-A to work on the offense. He needs to prove 2017 was about the injury and not a sign he’ll struggle against top-tier pitching.
Allen likely never will be a true star with the bat but in a perfect world, one could dream on him as a Kenny Lofton type center fielder, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense with steals and an on-base percentage driven by walks and plenty of singles. A more realistic outcome is Allen simply being an average big league starter in center, still playing great defense and stealing bases but with a more mediocre on-base percentage (think maybe the non-2012 version of Michael Bourn?).
What keeps Allen in our the top ten though is he absolutely will have a big league career, even if it’s simply a fourth outfielder. He’ll see time in Cleveland this year for sure though he’ll likely spend the bulk of the season at Triple-A Columbus.