After being claimed off waivers what role could outfielder Greg Allen play for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2022 season?
This past Friday the Pittsburgh Pirates made their second waiver claim of the week. After he was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees the Pirate claimed outfielder Greg Allen, adding him to their 40-man roster.
Allen is a switch hitter who is capable of playing all three outfield positions. The former top-10 prospect in the Cleveland farm system brings speed and a good glove to the table, as well as potentially improving offense. What kind of role can he play for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2022?
When the regular season begins Allen will be 29-years-old. While Allen has struggled offensively for much of his career he can provide quality defense for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While he has struggled at times in center field in his career (-11 Defensive Runs Saved, +3 Outs Above Average), he has always been a plus defender in left field (+6 DRS, +3 OAA) and in right field (+3 DRS, +5 OAA).
Allen’s performance at the plate is what has prevented him from being able to grab a full-time starting role at the Major League level in his career. In 666 plate appearances across 236 games played with the then Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees, Allen has hit for a .241/.307/.348 slash line to go with a wRC+ of 78. He has a lifetime walk rate of just 5.3% to go with a strikeout rate of 21.3%. Power has always been a struggle for Allen has he owns a lifetime isolated slugging (ISO) of .108 to go with an extra base hit rate of just 6.2%.
Last season, however, Allen put together the best offensive season of his career. While it came in just 48 PAs with the Yankees, Allen hit for a .270/.417/.432 slash line to go with a 140 wRC+, .162 ISO, 136 OPS+, and a 10.4% walk rate. All of these were new career highs for Allen.
The question for Allen now becomes is his offensive improvement in 2021 sustainable? Unfortunately for Allen, there are not many sings that point toward that. He benefitted from a .400 batting average on balls in play. While his 8% barrel rate was a new career high and better than league average, his average exit velocity of 86.3 MPH and his 24% hard-hit rate were both below league average.
So, what role could Allen play for the Pirates in 2022?
Well, that will likely hinge on how the rest of the offseason goes. If the Pirates do not add any other outfielders then he will likely enter Spring Training with a strong chance to earn a starting job in the outfield flanking Bryan Reynolds.
Even if the Pirates add another outfielder this offseason who earns a starting role, Allen should still be in a great position to break the Opening Day roster. He wold be a strong fourth outfielder and bench player.
Allen could see significant playing time, especially early in the season, in left or right field. With the Pittsburgh Pirates not in a position to compete yet it could be a worthwhile gamble to see if Allen really did start to turn a corner as a hitter in 2021.
Allen could also provide some insurance if the team does decide to have Travis Swaggerty on the Opening Day roster, which we have discussed as being a real possibility, and Swaggerty struggles. If Swaggerty were to start the season in left field and struggle or get off to a slow start, Allen can be used to give Swaggerty time off to work what he would need to work on without the Pirates having to put someone who is not a MLB level player in that spot.
Regardless of what role he plays, it would appear the odds of Allen cracking the Opening Day roster for the Pirates in 2022 are high. He could play a variety of different roles for the Pirates, which could include being given an opportunity to garner a lot of playing time in an effort to prove his 2021 offensive improvements were legitimate.