EL PASO, Texas — Although the Padres’ didn’t fully acknowledge a tear-down of the big league roster until trading James Shields in June, 2016, the first move focused on longer-term payoff came in December, 2015 when the club cashed in Craig Kimbrell for four prospects in a trade with the Boston Red Sox.
While that trade has already paid dividends for the major league roster in the form of Manuel Margot, it’s possible that the biggest payoff got his first promotion to Triple-A last month.
Logan Allen was just seven months off signing an above-slot deal as an eighth-round pick when the Padres acquired him. In his first year in professional baseball in the Gulf Coast complex league, he had struck out 26 with only one walk, over 24 innings.
Since joining the Padres organization, Allen has only continued to improve. He was named an All-Star in both 2016 and 2016, and last week was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year. We had him as the twelveth best prospect going into 2018 for the MadFriars Top 20 for 2018, he now sits comfortably in most national publications’ top prospects lists.
He was nice enough to sit down with us after his promotion to El Paso.
MadFriars: How did you hear about your call up to El Paso?
Logan Allen: I was throwing a bullpen, and one of the Padres pitching coordinators came over to me and asked me about my last start against Midland. I told him it wasn’t good (4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). He said, ‘Yeah we know, it’s why we are calling you up to El Paso.’
I couldn’t tell if he was joking, but he told me that my next start would be that Saturday against Sacramento. I had to wait a day until the Padres made some corresponding roster moves with the big league club, which was also great to think about being that close. As soon as that happened, I packed my bags and headed here.
How has the Pacific Coast League treated you so far?
Logan Allen: So far so good. I’ve only had a few starts here so far, and haven’t had my best stuff. I have struggled with certain pitches, but the defense and offense behind me has really picked me up. They have been excellent. You can tell the hitters in Triple-A are a step up from Double-A, which is a challenge. But I like the challenge and am ready to continue to give my best and help the team win.
Can you elaborate on not having your best stuff?
Logan Allen: Yeah, I am trying to be more consistent with my offspeed stuff, and at least the last few starts it hasn’t been there.
There are times when I’ve had both my slider and change, and those tend to be my best starts of the year. There are other times when I don’t have the feel for one or the other, and I end up having to abandon it for the start. The curveball has been there with me all year as kind of a get me over pitch. It doesn’t have the same swing and misses, but is usually able to get a fly ball.
Of course here, getting fly balls might not be the best thing. But not having the feel for either my slider or change has hurt me in the past few starts, and something I want to get down by the end of the year.
What has been the biggest difference you’ve seen in the hitters?
Logan Allen: It’s not night and day, but the ball does fly more in Triple-A. The biggest difference is you have to be almost perfect with your pitches here. If you make a mistake, they will not miss it, and will make you pay. So far every mistake has resulted in either a hit or a loud out where my defense picked me up.
It’s great to be here, but I’m young and still have a lot to learn.
You just turned 21 a few months ago, and with the promotion, are now one of the youngest players in the league. What is it like being so young and going against some guys that are over a decade older than you?
Logan Allen: If I am doing my job, age doesn’t matter. When someone steps into the batters box, it doesn’t matter if they are my age, younger, older, top prospect or the pitcher. I pitch with one goal in mind, to get the hitter out.
Speaking of facing the pitcher, you have been an offensive juggernaut this year. You had a single, scored a run, and had a perfect sac bunt in the game. How have you felt at the plate? Is it something you are working on?
Logan Allen: To be honest, the one in my last start was just luck. I don’t think I put a good swing on it. The one in my first start against Sacramento I felt really good about that. I thought my last swing was going to be foul, and when it went fair and I saw the fielders collide, I still thought it better not try and get thrown out at second. Hitting is not that hard when all you get are fastballs down the middle.
I was actually more nervous about the sac bunt. That was my first ever sacrifice. I was happy I was able to execute and get the runners over.
Most pitchers see themselves as hitters, especially since most play both ways in high school. Did you see yourself as a hitter in high school?
Logan Allen: Yeah, I liked to hit, and would hit and pitch in high school. My senior year at IMG they decided I should just focus on pitching, so I really haven’t hit since I was 17.
One of the big things you told us you wanted to work on this year was making sure you pounded the strike zone and limited the number of walks. From a self-reflective stand point, how do you think you’ve done with that goal?
Logan Allen: I think I’ve done a good job of it this year. It hasn’t been perfect, and some starts, like my last one, it was a really small strike zone and I disagreed with quite a few of the calls. But even when that happens, you don’t want to change your game.
You keep pounding the plate, and if it gets called a ball, you don’t stop doing what you should do. Plus their starter had to deal with the same small strike zone, so whenever that happens, I look at it as a positive for my team as it means more opportunities for them to score.
I hate walking batters, but when I do want to make sure they don’t score. As long as they don’t score it doesn’t matter too much how many you walked. You’re okay.
Have the Padres talked to you about playing winter ball?
Logan Allen: No, but I’m at over 130 innings [now at 148.2], and hopefully will get another 25 innings in, and would have to imagine they wouldn’t want me to go much past 150 innings [Allen threw 125 innings last year]. I don’t want to extend my arm too much either.
If I can throw 150 innings that would be a great year for me from an innings pitched standpoint, and I would be really happy with that.