Speculation around Brandon Allen began shortly at the Daimondbacks signed Russell Branyan to a minor league deal. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic added to the fire by providing fuel in the form of this tweet:
They were exploring [Allen’s] value at the winter meetings, and I’ve heard in the past the Rays were high on him.
Whether the Rays are or would be interested in Allen at this point is anyone’s guess. He does seem to fit the team’s profile, though, as a potentially undervalued chip with plenty of team control and upside. Allen turned 25 earlier this week (on Saturday) and hails from Conroe, Texas. The White Sox selected him in the fifth round of the 2004 draft and sent him to Arizona in 2009 for Tony Pena.
At the time, Allen had struggled, hitting .262/.262/.377 in Triple-A (61 plate appearances) and .290/.372/.452) in Double-A (274 plate appearances). Upon joining the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate –Reno, located in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League— Allen unleashed and hit .324/.413/.641 the rest of the way. His performance there led Kevin Goldstein to rank him as a four-star prospect and the second best in the Arizona system in January 2010 while writing this:
The Good: Allen has a solid approach and enough bat to profile as an everyday first baseman in the majors, combining plus power with a surprisingly solid contact rate, leaving scouts to project him as a .280+ hitter with 20-25 home runs annually. He’s a surprisingly good athlete for his size, and he moves well around the bag.
The Bad: Allen was eaten alive by major-league breaking pitches, as his tendency to sit dead-red was exploited by more advanced pitching. He needs to improve his glove work defensively, particularly in receiving throws and pulling low ones out of the dirt. Despite his athleticism, he’s still a below-average runner.
Allen repeated Triple-A in 2010 and didn’t relent, this time hitting .261/.405/.528 over 469 plate appearances, with 25 home runs. He has managed big league time in between stints in the minors. Over 172 plate appearances, he’s hit .221/.320/.389 with 60 strikeouts and 22 walks. Unimpressive numbers, but not too different from another PCL-based player acquired through trade, as Sean Rodriguez had 216 plate appearances and a putrid .203/.276/.3333 line when he came over in the Scott Kazmir trade.
While Allen and Rodriguez differ in skills and physical complexion, but they share in solidifying the idea that not every prospect is going to step into the fold and produce immediately. Allen is never going to fully replicate his .277/.395/.541 numbers in Triple-A, however, he should still become a productive big leaguer. Given his option status (he has one remaining), the D-Backs could store him in Triple-A until Branyan is traded or suffers a back injury. The Rays would make sense if, for whatever reason, they do intend to trade him. The first base depth in the system is lacking, with Dan Johnson seemingly the only legitimate option in the upper-half of the minors. Matt Sweeney cannot stay healthy and Jeff Malm is years away regardless of performance.
Allen is a name to keep tucked away, just in case.