I heard mention of this the other day, but now have official confirmation from Nick Piecoro, that Brandon Allen has got some reps away from his normal spot at first-base.
Allen has been working in the outfield in recent days, somewhere he hasn't played regularly since high school. He probably won't play there in the Cactus League but could during the minor-league season... "With LaRoche here, obviously that blocks him," [Josh] Byrnes said. "We want to open up another avenue for him, and we think he's a good enough athlete to play the outfield."
We'll discuss the background of this, and the potential implications - both for 2010 and beyond - after the jump.
It's not an enormous or unprecedented jump. Last season alone, eight men in the majors had 20 games at both first-base and the outfield, and in franchise history, there have been three players who have done it for Arizona (Travis Lee in 2000, Chad Tracy in 2005 and Conor Jackson in 2008). Of course, not all outfield positions are created equal: it's a lot rarer to see someone do 1B/CF than 1B/LF or 1B/RF - indeed, Brad Wilkerson and Xavier Nady are the only ones in the NL to have 20 games at 1B and CF since 1992. It seems unlikely we'll see Allen patrolling center for the Diamondbacks, so what is the aim?
At first, it seemed somewhat pointless, with the Arizona outfield apparently already set: Jackson in left, Chris Young in center, and a young n00b - Justin something? - apparently penciled in for right-field. However, appears the aim is to give Arizona a contingency plan, if Chris Young does not rebound in 2010. Should that prove to be the case, then Gerardo Parra will take over from Young in center, with Allen, rather than Parra, then being used as the backup in left and center. If I were Cole Gillespie, I'd be somewhat upset. Because the move appears to push Gillespie down another notch on the depth-chart.
Does this perhaps mean Allen might be being considered for the 25th spot on the roster? As noted previously, we have two reserve middle-infielders already present, in Augie Ojeda and Ryan Roberts, which would seem to reduce the point of adding Tony Abreu as well. If Allen could be both the reserve at first, and another left-handed option in the outfield, he'd be more valuable. However, that left-handedness would seem to make him of less use as a backup to Adam LaRoche (also a left-hander), since there's no platoon potential.
Beyond 2010, it'll be interesting to see if Allen follows the Jackson route and becomes a full-blown 1B/OF, or if this is just a temporary move, to try and maximize offensive potential while not sucking too hard defensively.