San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen earns All-AFL honors from MLB Pipeline.
What to do with Austin Allen? The hot-hitting San Diego Padres catching prospect out of Florida Tech is coming off back-to-back big seasons at the plate, a successful Arizona Fall League campaign, and is the 25th-ranked prospect in what many consider to be the top farm system in baseball. Oh yeah, he isn’t even the top-ranked catching prospect in the Padres sytem.
With the Arizona Fall League completed, MLB Pipeline has released a few different pieces looking at some of the top performances and most interesting numbers from the 2018 season, culminating in their All-AFL Team. Receiving the nod at catcher is San Diego’s own, Austin Allen.
Allen and the Peoria Javelinas captured the AFL title a few days ago (with the help from fellow Padres prospects Miguel Diaz, Buddy Reed, and Hudson Potts), with Allen finishing the season with a .263 average, two home runs, and two doubles in 15 games. His biggest contribution at the plate came in the form of his ability to get on base, ending the season with a .358 on-base percentage.
The catching prospect was also included in Mike Rosenbaum’s piece looking at some of the top Statcast data from the AFL (with the caveat that only one of the six AFL fields is equipped with Statcast). Still, Allen recorded the ninth-hardest exit-velocity on a 112.5 mph lineout. Daniel Johnson of the Nationals and Peter Alonso of the Mets topped this list with 116.4 and 116.3 mph exit-velocities, respectively.
What’s next for San Diego Padres catching prospect Austin Allen?
Allen is coming off a 2018 regular season in which he tied his career-high for home runs (22) and doubles (31), recording those numbers in back-to-back seasons with the Lake Elsinore Storm and San Antonio Missions.
In 12 fewer at-bats in Double-A, Allen stuck out 12 fewer times and recorded the same number of hits as he did the previous season in High-A, 131. He upped his batting average to .290 (up seven points) and his OPS to .857 (up eight points).
As expected, the Padres made room to protect Allen and place him on the 40-man roster, ahead of next month’s Rule-5 draft. Now the question becomes, what does Allen’s future hold as a member of the Padres?
As of right now, the organization appears to be content in going into 2019 with Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia behind the plate, leaving no playing time for Allen there. He did play some first base last season in Double-A, but that position is blocked for the foreseeable future, thanks to Eric Hosmer. But Allen doesn’t want to move from behind the plate and he may not have to.
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There isn’t a question as to whether or not Allen can hit a baseball. He can and he does it very well and very hard. The questions have surrounded his defensive abilities. As San Diego Union-Tribune Padres beat writer Kevin Acee pointed out last month in his feature on Allen, the catching prospect has continued to make positive strides in his defensive development and the organization is bullish on his ability to play the position at the major league level.
How many teams can say they have three catchers of the quality the Padres currently possess? As Acee discusses in his latest, AJ Preller doesn’t have much desire to trade away minor league talent that could potentially develop into major league production. In other words, Hedges gets one more chance to show he can hit the ball consistently, Mejia gets a full season to develop in the bigs, and Austin Allen mashes baseballs in El Paso until August/September. Based on current trade discussions and rumors swirling around Padres’ camp, I don’t see Allen going anywhere. However, a big season in AAA could lead to a much different story as the 2019 trade deadline approaches.
What do you say, Padres fans? Do you let Allen continue to develop defensively in the minors while letting Hedges/Mejia combine to man the position in the majors or are you looking to use Allen to sweeten a deal for a starting pitcher or third baseman?