In this edition of the weekly prospect spotlight series here at East Village Times, Patrick Brewer puts the spotlight on Padres catching prospect Austin Allen.
Despite completely remaking their roster over the last year plus, the San Diego Padres have several holes on their roster. One position that is not the case is at catcher.
After operating with three different catchers in 2014, in Yasmani Grandal, Rene Rivera, and Nick Hundley, the Padres traded away all three during or following that same season. Going into the 2015 season, Derek Norris was the new guy in town, with Wil Nieves as his backup, and Austin Hedges waiting in the wings in the minor leagues. After a poor start to last season, Nieves was released, and Hedges was called up to be the backup to Norris.
As a unit, Hedges and Norris were effective, despite the concerns associated with Hedges not getting enough playing time. Despite already having both players vying for playing time, general manager A.J. Preller went out and acquired Christian Bethancourt. With three catchers in tow, the likeliest scenario sees Norris as the starter, Bethancourt as a backup, and Hedges seeing more playing time in the minors to further develop. While the Padres have lots of catching talent in the majors, they have even more in the minor leagues.
The most intriguing of all of those options is catcher Austin Allen.
The 4th round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2015 draft (117th overall), Austin Allen is a talented player out of Florida Tech. Seeing as how he is one of the Padres most recent draftees, Allen still has a lot of development ahead of him, but has a good amount of potential to reach his ceiling. For Florida Tech, Allen was the highest draft pick in the history of the school. Prior to him, Tim Wakefield was the only other Florida Tech player to be drafted, in the 8th round of the 1988 draft.
Allen certainly has the size to be an impact player in the major leagues down the line. At 6’4’’ 225 pounds, Allen has a good mix of size and power, both at the plate as well as behind it. As a division II athlete, Allen has already faced quite a bit of adversity, exceeding expectations at every step of the way. Now with the San Diego Padres organization, those expectations will only be heightened.
Given that he was only drafted this past year, there is still a lot of developing left for Allen to do. In his first half season of professional ball, Allen struggled. Allen played a total of 53 games for the Padres low A affiliate, slashing .240/.315/.332 over 222 plate appearances. These numbers were uninspiring for a player who is known for being a bat first catcher. Even so, a 53 game stretch isn’t much of a sample size to judge a player on, and his college numbers tell a different story.
As mentioned above, the scouting report on Allen is pretty straightforward. At this point, Allen looks like the reverse of current Padre Austin Hedges. While Hedges is mostly glove at this point, Allen is mostly bat. Going forward, Allen has the capability to hit for both average and power at the higher levels. Allen has strong hands and great bat speed that allows him to drive the ball to all fields. The biggest question mark for Allen will be whether he can play good enough defense to stick behind the plate and provide positive value. Allen has good enough hands and a decent throwing arm, but he needs to certainly work on his receiving skills if he is going to stick at the position.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 45
Despite the strengths and weaknesses, Allen is still young and still has plenty of time to develop. With the Padres all set at the catching position for the foreseeable future, Allen will have all the time he needs to develop into a better all around catcher. The bat is there already. The glove will have to come in time. Either way, the Padres got one talented player in the fourth round of last year’s draft.