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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Greg Allen

Greg Allen has impressed at every stop on his minor league journey and now he's earned an invite to big league camp this spring. How soon will fans get to see him in Cleveland?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Greg Allen, OF

Throws: Right -- Bats: Switch -- Entering his age-24 season -- Contract: Fourth minor league season

2016 In Review: Imagine if you were a young college baseball player and you had Ted Williams to coach you on hitting. Well Greg Allen came pretty close by having the modern day equivalent in the late Tony Gwynn when he was at San Diego State. Three minor league seasons later, the 23-year-old outfielder has a career .276/.386/.377 slash line showing a knack for defense, getting on base and stealing bases. With an on-base percentage consistently over .360, including last season where he eclipsed .400, only five fewer career walks than strikeouts and an average of over 40 steals a season, Allen profiles as about as prototypical a leadoff hitter as you can get. While he has only just made it up to Double-A ball, there's a growing sense of anticipation for when he makes his inevitable big league debut. Could it possibly come during the upcoming season?

Versus Right-handers: 2016 could be described as the culmination of all of Allen's tools as a professional with a career highs across the board such as batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.416), slugging percentage (.413), OPS (.830), hits (145), home runs (7) and others. Another part of his game that came together in 2016 was his platoon splits, which were much more balanced than they had been in previous years, which you would hope to see from a switch hitter. Against right-handed pitching, Allen batted .292 with an .853 OPS while clubbing 25 of his 37 extra base hits. Additionally, he had 59 walks versus just 55 strikeouts with a right-hander to help add up to his .428 OBP against righties.

Versus Left-handers: Coming off a year where he had just a .243/.328/.327 slash line against left-handers in 2015, Allen stepped up in a big way last season compiling a .302/.390/.390 line between Lynchburg and Akron versus southpaws, which is likely a big reason why his overall numbers were so impressive in 2016. Should he continue to keep his splits on such an even keel, it won't take much longer for him to get that call of a lifetime to play in the major leagues. Plus, he could join a lineup with potentially four other switch hitters and wreak havoc on opposing managers trying to play the matchup game with their pitching staffs.

Defense: Despite everything Allen can do at the plate and on the base paths, his best asset may be his defense. For starters, he is already drawing comparisons to former Indians great Kenny Lofton, who patrolled center field with the best of his era winning four Gold Gloves. Allen obviously still has a long way to go before reaching those heights, although he did win an MiLB Gold Glove last season, which may be more impressive considering the much wider field of candidates. Even in just a handful of games in the spacious outfield of Canal Park in Akron, the Tony Gwynn protégé covered it like a seasoned veteran making eye-popping catches and plays, many of which do conjure up fond memories of Cleveland's iconic center fielder of the '90s. Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer certainly have their own talents and upside, but the guy within the organization with the most natural feel and pure instincts for the position would be Greg Allen.

Fantasy Impact: Now after all this high praise and optimism, here comes the harsh reality that says, realistically, Allen's chances of making an appearance with the Tribe this year are slim to none, outside of a September call-up. The fact of the matter is regardless of all his tools and talents, he has only 37 games under his belt at the Double-A level, so another full year of minor league seasoning can logically be expected, especially considering the emphasis the Indians place on getting their top prospects as ready for the major leagues as they possibly can. Now for the good news. He is invited to big league camp this spring along with fellow top prospects Bradley Zimmer and Yandy Diaz, who could soon be on the big league roster themselves, so the organization clearly thinks very highly of him. Plus, the center field position could be open for the taking whenever he makes his debut, whether it be this year or next.

Summary: Sometimes the best trades are the ones that aren't made. When All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause to void a deal to come to Cleveland last season, many Tribe faithful were hurt and frustrated, but it also meant that the Indians could hold onto two of their best prospects, Allen and catcher Francisco Mejia. Allen's the kind of spark plug that can jumpstart a lineup and anchor an outfield defense, but beyond what he brings on the field he's also a tremendous teammate, as anyone within the organization will tell you. Considering the team-first atmosphere that Terry Francona has created in that clubhouse, the San Diego native would fit in immediately. And in a game that is now harkening back to its roots where speed and athleticism ruled the day, he won't have much trouble falling into that mold either. Even if you don't see him manning center at Progressive Field in 2017, start counting the days because it won't be long afterward when you do.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.

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