While there are a number of low-cost and low-risk DH options on the free agent market, that’s not the only place the Yankees will look to fill that void. There are also players on the trade market who can slot into a platoon DH role for the Yankees. While they might cost something in terms of players, they can still come at a relatively low price. They can also come with a low risk level. One such name that came up this morning is the Oakland A’s first baseman Brandon Allen.
Allen started his career in the White Sox system after they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. He then went to Arizona in the Tony Pena trade in mid-2009. Since then he’s had a rough go in the majors, though he has continued to obliterate the Pacific Coast League. Here’s a look at how he could fit the Yankees’ needs.
- He’s a lefty with power. In 1,116 PA in AAA, he has an ISO of .269. While the PCL is known as a hitters’ league, Allen’s ISO is still well above the league average. In fact, his .273 ISO last year was more than 100 points higher than league average. He also beat the league average by more than 100 points in 2010. He also displayed prolific power before he reached AAA and the PCL.
- He can also take a walk. The last time he had more than 75 PA at any minor league stop and had a walk rate under 10 percent was in 2007 — in A-ball. In 367 MLB plate appearances he has a 10.9 percent walk rate.
- He also has contact skills. From Baseball America’s 2010 scouting report: “He toned down his swing and hit more balls to the opposite field in 2009, allowing him to hit a career-high .298 in the minors.” From Kevin Goldstein’s scouting report of the same year: “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.”
- His biggest weakness seems to be inside pitching, something that Kevin Long, with his now-famous home run drill, might help fix.
- While he has struggled in the majors, he has fared much better against right-handed pitching. That plays to his favor, considering the Yankees’ current DH situation.
- While his major league experience is limited, he has failed pretty badly in that time, hitting just .210/.287/.383 in 367 PA. He struggled even more after the trade to the A’s, hitting .205/.259/.356 in 158 PA last year.
- Contact rate has been a huge issue. While he kept his strikeout percentage in the low 20s in the minors, he has been in the mid 30s in the majors. Again, as Baseball America has said, it’s partly because “pitchers exploited him on the inner half.” While Long is known for his work in this area, his ability to fix Allen is not guaranteed.
- At a time when they could have used a first baseman, the Diamondbacks did things like sign Andy LaRoche and Russell Branyan, and trade for Juan Miranda, rather than give Allen a real shot. They also traded him for a middle reliever, which gives you an idea of what they thought of his ability to adapt. That the A’s are shopping him again is another warning signal.
- As with any player on another team, the Yankees would have to trade living, breathing players for him.
One reason why the Yankees, in all likelihood, won’t acquire Allen is that his upside might be better realized by a lower-tier team. The excellent Pirates blog Pirates Prospects has already put together a trade target article on him. He could also better help a team like the Indians; they could use a first baseman, particularly a lefty-hitting one, pretty badly. Since the Yankees would want him only to DH, and probably part-time at that, they might not be willing to part with the kind of prospects that other teams will, even if those prospects amount to No. 5 starter types.
Still, it’s always nice to have a look at a young left-handed bat who has flashed power. If the Yankees believe that Kevin Long can provide a fix, then he’s a worthy acquisition target. He would pair well with someone from the list of DHs available on a minor league contract, to give the Yankees a few low-cost, low-risk options. It does appear that Allen has an option remaining, too, reducing the risk of acquiring him. Chances are the Yankees won’t get far here. That’s fine. Perhaps Allen isn’t their guy, but he’s just another option in a long list of potential LHB DHs.