Lancaster, California —— Entering play in Lancaster on Monday night, San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen is slashing .256/.351/.400/.751 for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm through 49 games (180 at-bats), with 14 doubles, four home runs, and 24 walks against 48 strikeouts. I’ve observed the San Diego Padres’ former fourth round (2015) pick several times already throughout 2017; below is Baseball Census‘ full Austin Allen scouting report, starting with several videos. (In addition to our Austin Allen scouting report, you can also read our full feature interview with the San Diego Padres’ catcher by clicking here.)
Austin Allen Scouting Report — Video
Our first video of San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen comes from an April series against the Inland Empire 66ers:
And our second Austin Allen video comes from a May series against the Modesto Nuts:
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Austin Allen Scouting Report — Notes
The first thing that stands out about Austin Allen is his impressive stature, and he uses it well for leverage as a budding power hitter from the left side of the plate. He’s not a big home run guy yet (only 14 bombs in a shade under 800 career minor league at-bats), but his over-the-fence game is impressive in batting practice, to say the least, and he shows an ability to hit the ball extremely hard in game action when he finds the barrel. In turn, as he better understands how to pick his spots and manipulate his swing to producing more line drives in the air, he’ll undoubtedly hit more home runs and should soon become a plus power guy thanks to exceptional raw strength and very good bat speed.
His swing can get long at times, and when it’s long, Allen will get tied up and struggle to get around on inside pitches. But interestingly enough, that hasn’t translated into big strikeout numbers yet in his career. His contact abilities are far above average for a slugger, and that bodes well for his future projection in how he might adjust to better pitching. He takes good at-bats, works deep counts, and is starting to show the ability to walk some, too, which will help him immensely. I don’t think he has quite good enough barrel skills to hit for significant average down the road, but the fact that he limits strikeouts and is seeing a surging walk rate means there’s a more mature approach there than the grip-it-and-rip-it you so often expect from big power hitters.
The biggest question for Austin Allen centers on his defense, and whether (or for how long) the San Diego Padres will let him keep catching. Allen himself is very clearly on the record as wanting to catch above all else, but he’s massive (6’4″, 225 lbs. with thick legs and broad shoulders) and there just aren’t many catchers that size in professional baseball—though one or two do come to mind. He likely will develop enough power to find at least a part-time home at first base, and his large stature may soon be a detriment to him behind the plate as the inevitable wear and tear of the catcher position will undoubtedly take its toll.
He’s a good enough pitch caller with decent arm strength, and he’s very talented at dealing with pitchers, but his receiving skills, framing skills, and throwing mechanics behind the plate could all stand to improve. Allen would be very valuable to the Padres if he were to become a true power-hitting catcher, but he may lack the overall athleticism to stay back there in the big leagues and might be better served at first base. He’s never played the position professionally, though I’ve seen him put through pre-game workouts there several times this year, and he looks smooth with soft hands and good enough footwork to develop at the position. Perhaps a platoon fit—some catcher, some first base—would be an ideal future outlook for the big, strong prospect.
Austin Allen Scouting Report — Projection
The power will come, and soon Allen will find himself an above-average slugger with the ability to hit some doubles and flash more than a bit of over-the-fence pop from the left side of the plate. It’s aided by his ability to put the bat on the ball, which will serve him well in being able to adjust to better pitching in the high minors, and then the big leagues. The fuzziest area of his projection, though, will always remain his defense. Buoyed by his intensity to want to catch and an innate ability to lead pitchers, it’d behoove the San Diego Padres to leave Allen behind the plate as long as possible, polishing his receiving and framing skills and letting his bat play big for the role.
The catcher position has changed rapidly in recent years, and teams are increasingly willing to look to non-traditional candidates to catch in platoon roles; to that end, I believe there’s a fit for Allen to play 40-60% of his games behind the plate, and the other 40-60% of his games at first base down the road. The everyday wear and tear of the position may prove too tough for his big stature down the line, but if he’s well-managed in a platoon role at the position, I think there’s considerable value to be pulled from the prospect. He’ll help himself by continuing to work at first base on his footwork and hands to the point where the Padres eventually put him in at the position for game action, and he’ll further improve his long-term outlook by continuing to develop whatever power will grow out of his strong stature and line drive-heavy swing. But it’s not often a power-hitting catcher comes around, and the San Diego Padres may just have one in Austin Allen.
To read our feature interview with San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen, please click here.
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