As February slowly turns to March and the Indians add non-roster invitee after non-roster invitee the Indians are tasked with a Marie Kondo level sorting problem. That is; in a confined sample space the Indians are tasked with differentiating between Matt Joyce, Trayce Thompson, Bradley Zimmer, Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, Oscar Mercado, Mike Papi, and Daniel Johnson.
The above list does not include folks like Jake Bauers, Ryan Flaherty or even Carlos Santana who may be utilized in more versatile infield/outfield roles. In sorting, each has a collection of risks and in the realm of difficult to ascertain, ceilings. Of course ceilings are messy notions and often players simply shatter ceilings from above or below.
Greg Allen is a player with his own collection of limitations and strengths but in late 2018, for the first time, Allen’s strengths were able to poke their way through.
Greg Allen’s final 100 plate appearances in 2018 were exemplary but this remains a very limited sample to draw conclusions from.
Yet, Allen finally looked comfortable at the big league level, and with it came production. Allen ran a wRC+ of 114 in the second half and his peripheral level data changed substantially. Allen’s strikeout rate declined significantly in the second half from 24%+ to just 15%.
Still further, Allen’s contact profile improved including an increased line drive percentage and a radical decrease in soft contact. Increasing contact authority and optimal launch angle while decreasing strikeouts is a big deal. Allen’s batting average on balls in play did make a big leap, however, better contact is known to cause such a result.
One of Allen’s most similar batted ball profiles according Baseball Savant is Mallex Smith who ran a 117 wRC+ to a 3 WAR season in 2018. While Smith is a 98th percentile sprinter; Allen is 90th percentile and sustaining a similar batted ball profile should aid him in running a wRC+ between 92-107.
In terms of the strikeout rate/walk rate gain this can be best traced to an overall leap in discipline. His chase rate outside the zone on fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball declined significantly.
Allen is a capable defender with positive base running value and one of the most impressive workers in the Indians organization. One whose defense and base running would be sufficient with league average offense.
This has all been a musing on a 100 plate appearance stretch to end a season. Perhaps Allen found something he will not find again; perhaps the second half was simply an aberration. Yet, there is a glimmer, there is a shine that maybe, just maybe, Greg Allen spent the end of 2018 figuring it out at the big league level.