Allen may be Indians' post-season CF, and that is OK

Experience paying off in late season for rookie

Alex Hooper
August 19, 2018 - 5:10 pm
Aug 19, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Greg Allen (1) makes a running catch on a hit by Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis during the sixth inning at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – No team can prepare for their starting center fielder contracting a potentially fatal bacterial infection, especially when they had just expended assets to acquire said player.

When acquiring Leonys Martín at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cleveland Indians were basically conceding that Greg Allen would not be the playoff answer in center.

At the time, nobody would have argued that call. Leading up to July 31, Allen was a rookie slashing .210/.245/.287 with a 40 wRC+. His speed has always been a plus, but his defense was not so overwhelmingly positive that it made up for his liability at the plate. Advanced metrics have not been kind to the defense at all.

Fast forward to mid-August, Martín is freshly out of the hospital, now fighting for his playoff availability instead of his life. There still seems a slim chance that Martín is patrolling his center in October.

The chance seems equally slim that Chris Antonetti and the Indians front office would expend more future value to acquire another center fielder, jamming up the depth chart for 2019. Perhaps a former center fielder turned right fielder in Andrew McCutchen or Adam Jones could man either position.

At this point, all signs point to Allen as the playoff center fielder, and the 25-year-old speedster has taken his newfound opportunity and, well, ran.

In 10 games since being recalled to take the place of Martín on August 9, Allen is 12-of-34 (.353) with 3 RBI. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Sunday, the longest hitting streak for a rookie in 2018, tying Cincinnati’s Jesse Winker.

In that 12 game span, the Indians are 10-2 record.

“He’s continued to get better and a little bit more consistent,” Antonetti told reporters Sunday. “I think we’ve seen that with other players in the past. Going back a few years with Jose. The times he’d go down and come back and look a little bit better each time. I think we’re starting to see that a little bit with Greg.”

Like most young players, Allen has had to learn to command the strike zone. Since his return from Columbus, the switch-hitter is swinging at just 23.7% of balls out of the zone, and boasting an 80% contact rate overall. The former is a marked improvement from his career 33.3% chase rate prior to August.

“He’s doing a better job of either laying off, not swinging, or if he does, fouling it with two strikes and kind of earning a pitch up in the zone and doing something with it,” Manager Terry Francona said Friday.

Specifically, Allen had swung at 39% of pitches in his career low-and-out of the zone prior to August. In his 10 games this month, that number is 28.5% overall, and 31.8% of off-speed pitches.

“I think experience does a lot. Both the successes and the failures,” Allen said. “Obviously this year, there’s been some ups and downs, but I’ve been able to navigate through those. I think going through those processes and having those experiences teaches you a whole lot about how to approach the game. Usually just try to use it as a teaching point to try and get better with.”