Prospect Impact takes a look at the Indians' prospects who are on the verge of making the jump to the major league level in the upcoming season and breaks down their game, where they are in their development and when fans can potentially expect to see them in Cleveland.
Everyone knows about Bradley Zimmer at this point and there is a general consensus that he is the future center fielder for the Indians. Who knows, he may very well be. However, there is another outfielder in the system who could arguably be better suited for the job and is not far behind Zimmer as far as development.
Behind Yandy Diaz and Clint Frazier before he was traded, Greg Allen was the most impressive all-around player in the system in 2016 batting .295 with seven homers, 44 RBI's and 45 stolen bases in 58 attempts in 129 games between Lynchburg and Akron. Speed and defense are the primary tools to his game, but he's also shown a knack for patience at the plate and getting on base. So with only 37 games at the Double-A level under his belt, how long before he makes his major league debut? Let's examine...
Major League Ready
If there's a positive takeaway from the failed deal for Jonathan Lucroy last season, it's the fact that Greg Allen was able to remain a part of the organization as he was rumored to be included in the package to land the All-Star catcher. The 23-year-old has always been a speedster averaging over 40 stolen bases per season since being drafted out of San Diego State University in 2014 where he had been coached by the late, great Tony Gwynn. The Hall of Famer's ability to get on base also rubbed off on Allen as he has posted a career .386 OBP in the minor leagues so far.
As far as his other tools are concerned, they have steadily developed to where they are today as far as hitting and defense are concerned. Prior to 2016, Allen had only batted .262 in his first two professional seasons. This season, however, the California native pushed it up toward the .300 mark with seven homers, 23 doubles and seven triples as he is getting on base more than ever before having posted career highs in OBP (.416) and runs scored (119). Allen has also proven to be a patient hitter at the plate having nearly as many walks (159) as strikeouts (164) in his career.
Defensively, Allen is about as instinctive in center field as you can get with only six errors on his tally in over 2,000 innings of time out there. He has also seen time in the corner outfield spots, but his natural position remains in center. This season, the MiLB Gold Glove winner also set a new career mark with 15 assists and four double plays in center field between the High-A and Double-A levels, thus making him a more intriguing candidate to take of the center field position in Cleveland which is currently in flux as far as finding a long-term answer.
A Work In Progress
It's tough to find any glaring weaknesses with Allen's game. He is a prototypical center fielder and leadoff hitter who can get on base and steal bases. If there's anything to point to, perhaps it was the slow adjustment period after getting promoted to the RubberDucks. While Allen batted .290 in 37 games and posted a .399 OBP, he did get thrown out on the bases a bit more in the Eastern League with only seven steals in 13 attempts.
It was a relatively small sample size against more advanced pitching and catching so it shouldn't be any cause concern yet. The success rate of his run game in Akron in the upcoming season should provide a clearer picture of his ability to adjust to better competition. Looking at his past numbers and knowing his intelligence and instincts as a player, Allen should be wreaking havoc on the bases again sooner rather than later.
Estimated Time of Arrival
Truth be told, the chances of Allen making his big league debut in 2017, outside of a September call-up, are slim at this point. Now if he flat out dominates early on in the campaign for Akron and gets the call to Triple-A where he continues playing well, he may force the Indians' hand, especially if they are in need of a better alternative in center field. But that would also mean leapfrogging over Bradley Zimmer, who already has time logged in Columbus and is the organization's top prospect. On the other hand, the team could decide to move Zimmer to a corner outfield spot and make Allen the top center field priority.
The path to the majors has become much clearer for Allen since the Andrew Miller trade shipped Clint Frazier off to New York. Now center field in Cleveland could be his for the taking even with Zimmer still in the mix. Realistically, we probably won't get a full dose of Greg Allen in the majors until 2018, but a sneak preview late this season when rosters expand is not out of the question.