Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
The D-backs made a pair of roster moves just prior to the start of the second half of the season. First baseman Brandon Allen has been summoned from Triple-A Reno and veteran infielder Geoff Blum was activated off the disabled list.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
2. Brandon Allen, 1B
3. Bobby Borchering, 3B
4. Chris Owings, SS
5. A.J. Pollock, OF
6. Keon Broxton, OF
7. Marc Krauss, OF
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.