Name: Brandon Allen
Draft: 5th Round of the 2004 Draft (White Sox)
Position: First Base
Weight: 235 lbs
History: Through his first three professional seasons, Brandon Allen wasn't a highly-regarded prospect. While he showed occasional flashes of power, his limitations as a first baseman, high strikeout totals, and low on-base percentages overshadowed that one positive attribute.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Then in 2007, Allen repeated the Low-A level in the White Sox organization and made great strides. He stopped trying to hit homers and focused on just making solid contact. His natural strength still allowed him to belt a career-high 18 home runs that year, but he also found his batting average shoot up by 70 points, his doubles total more than double, his strikeout rate plummet, and his walk rate increase.
He discovered yet another talent in 2008, swiping 17 bases in 21 attempts. But that was merely a side note as he walloped 29 home runs and his cranked out 67 extra-base hits between Winston-Salem (Hi-A) and Birmingham (AA), the latter level being notoriously tough on power hitters. Allen continued his Birmingham success this season, but ran into some early troubles at Triple-A before the White Sox traded him to the Diamondbacks for reliever Tony Pena this week.
Allen joins fellow Montgomery High School power hitter Bobby Stone in the D-backs organization. Stone has a big-time power ceiling himself and was drafted out of high school just as Allen was. Stone is currently repeating Rookie-Ball with considerable success.
Batting and Power: Although the Diamondbacks have several prospects like Stone with considerable power potential and added several power hitters in last month's draft, Brandon Allen immediately became the best power-hitting prospect in the farm system upon his arrival. He is 235 pounds of solid muscle on a 6-foot-2-inch frame and can take the ball out of the deepest of ballparks.
Allen's hitting acumen and feel for the strike zone are advanced for a 23-year old because he has enjoyed professional tutelage for the past six seasons. He has increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate every subsequent season following 2006.
Still, power remains his biggest strength. Allen might have a career year in which he hits over .300, but he projects to something closer to the .260-.280 range. Power-wise, 30 homers per season is a conservative estimate of what he could accomplish in the hitter-friendly desert conditions.
"He's got a lot of power," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "He's a strong guy, he's athletic, he can actually run a little bit, he's gotten better defensively. You want a guy that can hit and hit with power, and he's done that -- he can do that."
Base Running and Speed: The ability to run Byrnes mentioned had been a hidden talent before Allen broke out with 17 stolen bases in 2008. Unfortunately, it has gone back into hiding this year, as Allen has swiped just one bag in three attempts.
Defense: Allen also takes pride in the strides that he has made defensively over the years. He was primarily an outfielder in high school, and took some time to acclimate to first base. His fielding percentage has climbed from the .970s to the .990s. He's no Mark Grace, but he can scoop the occasional low throw and exhibit reasonable range.
"He's an athlete with good work habits, so I think he's taking [his defense] seriously and knows that's important," Byrnes said.
Major League Clone: Carlos Pena
Prediction: Allen is going to hit at the major league level. He struggles a little bit against southpaws, though, so he might break in as the dominant member of a platoon system before he establishes himself as an everyday player.
ETA: Allen could be ready for the majors sometime in 2010. That's perfect, because Chad Tracy and Tony Clark will both be gone by then. It's hard to predict exactly what next year's roster will look like; that picture will be clearer next month. But it appears that Allen will compete with Joshua Whitesell for the left-handed portion of a first base platoon to share with either Conor Jackson or Mark Reynolds.
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