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3 reasons Allen is a perfect fit for Padres

@AJCassavell
August 27, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- As an organization, the Padres have spent time studying the rosters of recent World Series champions. That's only natural. They'd like to build a World Series-caliber roster themselves, and no piece is too small to ignore. Which brings us to Austin Allen, the Padres' newly promoted third

SAN DIEGO -- As an organization, the Padres have spent time studying the rosters of recent World Series champions. That's only natural. They'd like to build a World Series-caliber roster themselves, and no piece is too small to ignore.

Which brings us to Austin Allen, the Padres' newly promoted third catcher and a lefty pinch-hit option. His path to a starting role is blocked by Francisco Mejía and Austin Hedges. The former is a switch-hitting offensive force. The latter is a defensive wiz. In the current setup, it's hard to find regular playing time for Allen.

The thing is, Allen doesn't need regular playing time to be an impactful player. Take Monday night for example. Dodgers starter Dustin May had shut down the Padres for six innings. Allen, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Padres' No. 10 prospect, was called upon as a pinch-hitter. He laced a 1-2 curveball into the right-center-field gap, sparking a game-winning three-run rally.

"That's what I'm here to do," Allen said. "And whatever they need me to do -- if it's coming off the bench -- I'm ready to do it."

Allen is 4-for-11 with three doubles and a walk as a pinch-hitter this season. He's clearly embraced the role.

"It's usually really tough for a young guy who's played consistently throughout his career to slide into that role and to excel at it," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's a tribute to his mental approach more than anything else."

Even though Allen is exclusively a bench piece right now, there are a number of reasons to think he's a perfect fit.

1. He's the lefty bench bat the Padres need against right-handed starters

Against righty starters, Josh Naylor and Eric Hosmer are almost always in the lineup. Greg Garcia receives his share of starts as well.

That previously left Green without an obvious weapon to counter a tricky righty. Meanwhile, Allen was hitting .356/.398/.707 against right-handers in the Minors.

"Ultimately, a left-handed pinch-hit bat is what we're looking for," Green said. "That could change in the future into a more prominent role catching games consistently. But he showed why he was here last night. He gave us a really professional at-bat."

2. He adds level of security when Mejia plays left field

Mejia is the starting catcher, but he's not going to start behind the plate more than two-thirds of the time. Lately, however, the Padres have begun to use Mejia as a left fielder in order to get his bat in the lineup.

Allen is unlikely to take any starts away from Hedges, who is far superior defensively. But his presence makes things easier on the Padres when Mejia is playing left. If Mejia is removed for a defensive replacement, there's no need for an emergency catcher. Plus, Allen is an obvious pinch-hit option for the light-hitting Hedges. Because Allen is a catcher, that move wouldn't require any extra lineup shuffling.

"That role he's filling right now, it does allow for some liberty with some other players as well," Green said.

3. He could be an ideal 26th man when rosters expand next season

No one is better poised to capitalize on next year's pending roster expansion than Allen. As things stand, it's generally unwise to carry two backup catchers on a four-man bench. Make it a five-man bench, however, and suddenly there's space.

Based on the current roster composition, it seems likely the Padres open the 2020 season with two backup infielders and two backup outfielders. That leaves one spot available. Given the shortage of lefty-hitting options, Allen is an obvious candidate.

Allen's bat has an immensely high ceiling. He was hitting .330/.379/.663 while catching regularly at Triple-A El Paso. It's still entirely possible he hits his way into an everyday role eventually. But his defense still needs improvement.

For now, however, Allen is a dynamic bench piece, and he's just fine with that.

"I'm coming to the field every single day like I'm going to play," Allen said. "Whether that's starting the game or coming in in the ninth. I'm preparing myself every single day to play. Some days I don't play. Some days, I get that opportunity. And I'm trying to make the most of it."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.