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The Brandon Allen Era Begins

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Nick Piecoro reports that Brandon Allen has earned his promotion from Reno, replacing Josh Whitesell on the roster. Can't say I am too surprised by this move: Allen was destroying minor league pitching, even by PCL standards, hitting 324/.413/.641 in his time there, while Whitesell struggled to get his average above the Uecker Line. Be interesting to see how this works out. He's already gone straight into the starting line-up for tonight's game in Houston, but that seems to be standard practice for AJ Hinch, rather than bringing people up to sit on the bench for a bit first.

Details and analysis after the jump.

Allen came over to Arizona from the White Sox in the trade for Tony Peña [after a rocky start, Tony has settled down a bit in Chicago, with a 2.19 ERA over the past month]. We've already covered him in some detail both in the original trade report and in IHateSouthBend's report on Allen, which conveniently was posted just last Wednesday. Starting with those two pieces is definitely your best bet if you want to learn about the latest rookie to pull on a Diamondbacks shirt this year.

He's going to become the eighth player to make his major-league debut  for Arizona this season. That's a number surpassed only by the Cardinals (nine) and Padres (thirteen) in the majors during 2009. [Trivia question: can you name the other seven? Answer at the end] That still leaves us some way short of the all-time franchise record of thirteen. You'll likely not be surprised to hear that was set in 2004, when the Arizona Sidewinders were doing a not-very convincing impression of a major-league team.

Back with Allen, Originally a fifth-round draft pick by the White Sox, he hit only .205 over 58 games in his first season, with just three home-runs and a K:BB ratio of 60:16 - admittedly, that was an 18-year old. It earned him a repeat of rookie-ball and the next season he hit .264 with eleven home-runs. The same thing happened over 2006/07: he initially struggled in A-ball, but the next year, his OPS was 272 points better at the level. Since then, the only blip in his success was 15 games for Chicago's Triple-A affiliate, where he had only one homer and no walks in 61 at-bats. So he''ll clearly fit in perfectly with the Diamondbacks of late...

I think what impresses me about him is the way his K:BB and power numbers have almost steadily he has moved through the system.In 2006, he struck out more than five times for every walk. But in 2007, that number was down to around three, and last season, little more than two. So far in 2009, his K:BB ratio is 85:50, better still. And it's important to remember that he is still only 23-years old. He entered the season ranked 4th-6th on most of the the White Sox prospects lists, but I certainly don't think we have a more potent hitter currently in our system.

Some caution should be exercised, however, especially with regard to his Reno stats. The town is some 4,500 feet above sea-level, almost Coors Field altitude, and I don't believe they have a humidor in the Aces clubhouse. Allen's road numbers, while not bad, are a good bit less staggering: 279/.313/.574, an .877 OPS, compared to his Reno one of 1.161. I also note that Whitesell's Triple-A numbers were similarly skewed. His .916 OPS concealed a home/road split even more extreme than Allen's: 1.049/.702, and we saw how that worked out - the latter perhaps provided a better measure of his talent. So, I'd expect a major-league OPS nearer .800 than 1.000 from Allen.

Still, there's a particularly interesting comparison between two young batters, who both spent their age 22 season split between A+ and AA farm teams. Here are their combined numbers for that year:
   Player A: .278/.367/.555, 29 HR, 60 BB, 124 K [539 PAs]
   Player B: .318/.401/.633, 31 HR, 52 BB, 109 K [449 PAs]
While obviously not identical - Player B has some more pop - the two are really not too dissimilar. Player A is Brandon Allen. Player B is... the man who'll be playing on the opposite corner of the diamond from him this evening. Mark Reynolds. If Allen continues to develop in the same way Special K has, then the next couple of years could see a marked improvement in the Diamondbacks' production out of the 1B position.

[The other seven AZ debutants this year: Esmeling Vasquez, Bryan Augenstein, Gerardo Parra, Clay Zavada, Daniel Schlereth, Trent Oelthen and Rusty Ryal]