Jumping 14 spots, tied for most of returning top 30 prospects, outfielder Greg Allen comes in at number 9 on our Cleveland Indians 2017 prospect countdown.
Who is Greg Allen?
Allen joined the Indians as a sixth round pick back in 2014 out of San Diego State University. The California native is a switch-hitting outfielder who stands 6-feet tall and weighs just 175 pounds.
The 24-year-old had a very busy 2016 season that began at Advanced-A Lynchburg where he was an All-Star. He was then promoted to Double-A Akron, helping them win the Eastern League Championship before capping off the year in the Arizona Fall League, where he was named a top prospect and helped his team there win a championship.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Allen joined the Cleveland Indians out of college looking like a true professional hitter. He hit over .300 with the Aztecs and was coached by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
He didn’t make the smoothest transition in 2014, hitting just .243 but he’s improved each and every year, culminating with a .295 average between Lynchburg and Akron this season. He has a very smooth swing from both sides of the plate and hasn’t shown any major platoon splits to worry about to this point.
Allen has also shown some of the best plate discipline in the Tribe system. He’s posted a walk rate of nearly 11 percent in the minors (10.9 percent) and has walked almost as much as he’s struck out (159 walks, 164 strikeouts). He has a career .386 on-base percentage in the minors and it jumped to .414 in 2016. He looks every bit the part of the prototypical leadoff hitter, in the mold of a Kenny Lofton.
Allen even has plus speed and has led the organization in stolen bases each of the past two seasons. He could be a 40 stolen base guy at the big league level if the bat allows him to reach base enough. That speed also shows up on defense, allowing him to cover a ton of ground in center field.
Baseball America rated him as the best defensive outfielder in the Tribe system. He will stick in center field but also has a very good arm that would allow him to play right field if the need arose.
The only real knock on Allen to this point is his lack of power. He’s hit just 14 home runs in the minors after hitting just two in his three collegiate seasons. However, given his speed/on-base skill set, he doesn’t need to hit for power to be an effective player.
That said, Allen did show a surprising amount power at the end of the 2016 season. He hit six home runs between Akron and Arizona in just 59 games. This after hitting just 11 in his first 275 professional games.
Where does he go from here?
Greg Allen has made one of the steadier climbs of any prospect in the Tribe system the last couple of years. After finishing the season so well, particularly in the Arizona Fall League, there may be some temptation to see him start the year at Triple-A Columbus.
He even got some playing time with the big league club this spring as a non-roster invitee. He was reassigned to minor league camp yesterday though and he almost certainly will begin the season back at Akron as their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Allen has been one of the biggest and best surprises the last year. He didn’t “come out of nowhere,” but he has firmly established himself as one of the best prospects in the system. His ceiling still isn’t quite as high as others, which is why he’s not even higher on our list, but he has one of the highest floors of any position player.
It would be a shock if he’s not at worst a fourth out fielder in the big leagues at some point, and he has the potential to be an All-Star center fielder if everything continues to click.
He could be in Cleveland as soon as this season as a pinch runner/defensive replacement, and he could even end up being the everyday center fielder in 2018. I actually could see myself regretting not placing him higher (more so than any other player on this list), however, I’m still somewhat cautious on just how good his bat will be at the next level.
I look forward to seeing him play more at Akron and eventually Columbus this year to see if he can maintain the plate discipline. For now, he remains behind Bradley Zimmer in center field but could eventually push him to a corner outfield spot.