Tagged: Brandon Allen

Parra, Gutierrez Heating Up As Season Approaches

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Photography: Jon Willey
By Greg Dillard
The outstanding play of D-backs outfielder Gerardo Parra has turned some heads this Spring. 
After arriving to camp in stellar shape, Parra is enjoying the best Spring Training of his young career. He has emerged as a regular in manager Kirk Gibson’s lineup, and produced when given the opportunity. 
Parra is currently boasting a .350 batting average to go with his two homers and 10 RBI.
It was more of the same for Parra on Friday against the Mariners. In his first at-bat, Parra  drilled a single into center field to plate the D-backs first run of the game. After being hit by a pitch in his second plate appearance, Parra raced around the bases to score on Willie Bloomquist’s single. 
Gibson believes the impressive results are due to Parra’s hard work this Spring.
“He’s just playing well,” Gibson said. “All the hard work has paid off. He’s played a lot too, but he’s conditioned himself, strengthened himself. He’s worked a lot with Don Baylor trying to correct some things that he’s been doing the past few years.”
Gibson believes Parra is noticing the results of his new workout habits.
“I think he kind of feels the difference it’s making on him,” Gibson said. “His body is changing. He’s getting more cut, way stronger in his core, throwing a lot better, running a lot more.”
Since his arrival to the Major Leagues in 2009, Parra has seen regular playing time as the team’s fourth outfielder. Through his first two seasons in the big leagues, Parra is a career .277 hitter with 40 doubles. 
However thanks to his impressive Spring, Parra could possibly receive the majority of innings and at-bats in left field this season. 
While Parra could play center field to give Chris Young an occasional day off, Gibson believes his skills best suit him for the corner outfield spots. 
“He’s really effective on the corners, either corner,” Gibson said. “His arm comes into play. He really runs the ball down well in the corners. He’s running better, though, this year.”
Allen flashes leather at first base
Since Gibson took over as D-backs manager, he has stressed the importance of adequate defense.
On Friday, the Mariners kept first baseman Brandon Allen busy fielding his position. Through the first three innings, Allen hauled in four batted balls, fielding them with ease to retire each Seattle hitter.
Allen even turned in a highlight reel catch by diving to his right to snare a Josh Bard line drive. For Allen, defense could prove to be a deciding factor for the young D-back as he continues to fight for playing time at first base.
“I feel comfortable,” Allen said. “Getting in there, and just making routine plays. I got a lot of action over there finally. Past couple starts, haven’t gotten too many balls, but it was good today.” 
As Spring Training progress, the D-backs continue to focus on strong defense as a team. Allen said he’s just glad to contribute in the field. 
“Collectively as a team, we’re pretty solid defensively, I believe,” Allen said. “So everybody’s got to do their part, and being able to help out is awesome.” 
Gutierrez shuts down Mariners in seventh
In the top of the seventh and with the score knotted at 4-4, Juan Gutierrez toed the rubber against the Mariners in his seventh outing of the Spring. He made short order of the Seattle lineup by retiring the side in order.
The right-hander induced a ground out to first base off the bat of leadoff man Gabe Gross to start the inning. Mike Wilson was next and he didn’t fare much better as Gutierrez induced another ground out. One batter later, Gutierrez struck out Josh Bard to cap off the 1-2-3 frame. 
Friday’s inning against the Mariners was Gutierrez’s fourth consecutive scoreless outing. 
“I’m ready to go to the season,” Gutierrez said. “I fixed everything that I got to fix. So now I’m ready to go into the season.” 

Miranda, Branyan & Allen Still Competing for Spot

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
With less than three left in Spring Training, the position battle at first base still appears to be wide open for the D-backs.
The trio vying for playing time: Juan Miranda, Russell Branyan, and Brandon Allen all continue to hit well. 
It was Miranda who stood out in Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Angels. He received the start at first base, and took advantage of the opportunity. 
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Miranda launched a long two run home run to right field. That long ball was his third of the Spring. Miranda now owns a .294 batting average to go with a .618 slugging percentage. 
In his third plate appearance, Miranda rocketed a single back up the middle in the fifth. 
Miranda made it a three hit afternoon by hitting a leadoff single into right field to start the bottom of the eighth. 
It was a big offensive day for Miranda, who had cooled off a bit at the plate recently. 
“He’s had a couple crappy games,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He came back and played well, looking good at the plate. He’s pretty competitive.”
Branyan entered the Spring as a non-roster invitee, but has proven himself to be a threat at the plate. The left-handed hitter has collected 16 hits, nine RBI, three home runs and an outstanding .794 slugging percentage.  
Against the Angels, Branyan pinch hit in the bottom of the fifth, and continued his hot hitting by lacing a single into right field.
After advancing to second base on a wild pitch, he would then score on Chris Young’s single.
As camp progresses, Branyan continues to make a statement for inclusion on the roster.
“He’s had a good spring,” General Manager Kevin Towers said. “He hasn’t done anything to hurt himself. He’s performed very well. He’s certainly probably been one of our better offensive players we’ve had this Spring.”
Allen has been off to a strong start at the plate this Spring as well, batting .343 with four doubles. 


D-backs Look at Allen in Left


Any concerns over Brandon Allen’s ability to survive in left field for the D-backs dissipated quickly when he made a pretty fantastic catch jumping into the outfield wall near the D-backs bullpen, to rob an extra-base hit against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.


Allen has been a first baseman, primarily, in his professional career, and played that position when he was originally called up by the D-backs to play in 2009. But, of course, the team has Adam LaRoche now, so if Allen is going to get at bats in the big leagues, he isn’t going to get very many of them playing first.


Allen split time between first and left at Triple-A Reno, and if he plays well in left field (and hits well) this month, he could be a left field consideration for the D-backs in 2011.


“It’s been going good,” Allen said. “I’m getting comfortable with it. I’m excited (to play there in the big leagues).”


Manager Kirk Gibson wrote Allen’s name into the lineup card on Wednesday, his first day with the team.


“He has played left field a couple times a week down (in Reno) he’s a consideration out there,” Manager Kirk Gibson said. “If we keep (LaRoche), then he’s not going to play at first too much. His bat is intriguing and he kind of got anointed last year, to put it bluntly. So he’s been down there, he’s worked and we’ll see how he adjusts this time through.”


In Reno, Allen worked with manager Brett Butler, who was a fine defensive center field during his long Major League career. Allen said Butler’s presence and coaching style made the transition go smoothly.


“He’s hands-on, which is good when they’re just throwing you out there,” Allen said. “He was good. He helped me out, taught me a lot of things: playing balls off the wall, where to go when they get hit it was good.”


One adjustment to keep your eye on is Allen’s throwing ability in left. Playing first base, the only throws he was likely to make in a game were cutoff plays to home on balls hit down the right-field line. He is going to have to throw much more often now, though he said the different length of the throw is negligible.


“The main goal is to hit the cutoff man,” he said. “It’s a little different mechanically, but you still have a target hit which is not that far away. So you just get it to him. If you get a good angle on it, it will go all the way. If not, he can cut it and make the play.”


The next month will be interesting to watch, when we’ll get a good look at him in the outfield as Allen’s defensive sample size gets a little larger. The early returns are looking awfully promising, though.




Allen in Lineup, Playing LF


D-backs prospect Brandon Allen was recalled Wednesday as active rosters expanded to include any player on the 40-man roster. Allen was joined by infielder Tony Abreu, and pitchers Leo Rosales and Carlos Rosa.


Worth noting, Allen is playing left field today.


Allen played first base in every game he played in in the Majors in 2009 and in the Arizona Fall League, but he played 33 games in left at Triple-A Reno this year.


Now, obviously, Allen’s long-term future with the D-backs may have something to do with his ability to hack it in the outfield. Adam LaRoche has been pretty clear about his interest in staying with Arizona next year, and the club seems interested as well. If Allen can give the D-backs serviceable defense in the outfield, his bat could be a nice boost to the lineup. To this point, D-backs leftfielders have hit .242 collectively with a .646 OPS, which ranks 29th in the Majors.

A Few Notes from Mesa


Made it out to HoHoKam Stadium for some Cubs and D-backs spring baseball. A few notes:


— Brandon Allen had a number of hard-hit line drives in batting practice, and some shots to the gap. Yesterday, he hit a triple to the gap and if you’ve never seen Allen run, he moves really well for a guy his size. That’s all good to see from a player who can hopefully use this Spring Training to springboard a productive year at either Triple-A Reno or in some role at the Major League level. After batting practice, you couldn’t help but notice Allen sit down next to Adam LaRoche in the D-backs dugout. To this point, he seems to be handling his situation exactly how you would hope a young player would, taking advantage of LaRoche’s knowledge and experience. We’ll try to catch up with Brandon at some point soon and get his thoughts on the spring so far.


— Billy Buckner settled down after a rough start to yesterday’s game, retiring his last five batters. As I mentioned here last week, he’s one of the guys you should really keep an eye on this spring. He’s fighting for a spot in the rotation, as the fourth and fifth spots both seem to be up for grabs at the outset.


— D-backs General Manager Josh Byrnes said today that while the team would like to see Brandon Webb start the regular season right away, the club plans to be cautious and realistic about his bounce back from a shoulder injury.


“It’s going to be a gradual process,” Byrnes said. “We’re into games, so we’re starting to think about where he fits into the schedule. We’ll continue to keep him moving along. It’s a long season. If we get 30 starts from him, great. If we get 20 from him, that’s great. We just need to get it right.


“If we have to concede a little bit of time at the front end of the schedule to keep him healthy for the long haul then that’s what we’ll do.”


This might make Buckner’s performance that much more important to monitor, as there is at least some small possibility that it could be three rotation spots — not two — that need filling for early April.


— Edwin Jackson will make the start for the D-backs on Saturday in Scottsdale against the Giants.


— It was interesting to see infielders Starlin Castro and Josh Vitters, and outfielder Brett Jackson in the lineup for the Cubs today. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, they’re three of the Cubs’ five best prospects, and Castro and Vitters are two of the top 30 in the league. If you’re into prospect watching like me, I’ll post a blog in the next few days with the prospects you should keep an eye on when you attend D-backs games this Spring Training.




First base coach Matt Williams ran infield practice before the game.



— Justin Upton just blasted a three-run sixth-inning home run off the scoreboard in left field, his first of the Spring. It’s the fifth run the D-backs have scored this inning, as they lead the Cubs 5-4.

— Dan Haren had a nice, smooth-sailing outing here in Mesa. Two innings, no hits, one walk, one strikeout.

— Ryan Roberts just hit a homer clear out of the stadium, between the left-field foult pole and the scoreboard. 6-4 D-backs in the top of the seventh.

— Cole Gillespie just went deep to break a tie for the D-backs in the top of the ninth, 7-6 good guys. Keep your eye on Gillespie, he might contribute at the big league level this year.

— Tough loss, with the Cubs winning it 8-7 on a deep walk-off double.

This One Goes To Eleven

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(Photo: Ken Weisenberger)

For prospect-info nerds like me, today is like a second Christmas.

Kevin Goldstein over at Baseball Prospectus released the Top 11 Prospects (because that’s better than 10) for the D-backs today. Here’s the link: http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9958 (subscription required).

Goldstein does a fantastic job with these lists — one for every organization. He’s very thorough with his research.

The promotion of prospects to the Major Leagues over the last four years (Drew, Upton, Reynolds, etc.) and trades — Dan Haren, for example — left the D-backs’ system a little thinner than it had been earlier in the decade. That’s not necessarily a bad problem to have, since it generally a sign of rapid big league promotion among your young players.

So in that vein, you’re going to see a lot of new names. A stunning eight of the top 11 were drafted in 2009.

Anyway, on to Goldstein’s list.

Four-Star Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
2. Brandon Allen, 1B
Three-Star Prospects>
3. Bobby Borchering, 3B
4. Chris Owings, SS
5. A.J. Pollock, OF
6. Keon Broxton, OF
7. Marc Krauss, OF
Two-Star Prospects
8. Matthew Davidson, 3B
9. Mike Belfiore, LHP
10. Ryan Wheeler, 1B
11. Leyson Septimo, LHP

A few thoughts:

— Goldstein sees Parker as an elite prospect, which is good to see. He noted in the comments section that Parker surely would have been a five-star prospect — and probably a top 25 overall prospect — if not for the arm injury that will sideline him in 2010. However, his rehab is going well, so while it may cost him a year of development, it may not actually cost him any of that excellent ability that made him a top prospect to begin with.

Goldstein note on Parker:
Perfect World Projection: If he comes back 100 percent, he’s an All-Star.

— Goldstein is still high on Brandon Allen, which is great. Allen took some flak for struggling at the plate in the Arizona Fall League, but the D-backs still believe in him long-term. There shouldn’t be any rush on Allen — he’s due for a full year at Triple-A anyway — so the signing of Adam LaRoche takes the pressure off, and hopefully leads to Allen raking for a year at Reno.

Goldstein Note on Allen:
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.

— It’s great to see Ryan Wheeler on this list. The fifth-round pick last year stunned a lot of prospect watchers with his huge professional debut. Wheeler is definitely a guy to keep your eye on this year.

— Right in the middle of this list is Keon Broxton. Keep your eye on him, too. And be patient. Even at the time of the draft, it was clear that he was a total upside pick. He’s got some work to do to, but he’s a pretty spectacular athlete (he played wide receiver at Florida International University).

We can’t reprint everything here, so you’ll have to head over to BP to check it out.

If you don’t have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, they aren’t that expensive, and definitely worth it.

In related news, Keith Law’s Top 100 prospects over at ESPN is due to be released on Jan. 28. We’ll check back in then to see what we’ve got for a D-backs presence on that list.