GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For the first time in a long time, Cleveland had some hiccups with its rotation in 2021, as injuries forced the club to turn to inexperienced arms in the Minor Leagues. It raised questions about whether the Cleveland Pitching Factory had finally started to run low on exceptional starting options in the Minors -- a supply that once seemed neverending.
Despite last season's issues, the club is confident that its pitching pipeline is building back up, including the rise that’s soon to come of Logan T. Allen.
The middle initial is essential when discussing this lefty pitcher taking his young professional career by storm, because he shares his name with another southpaw in the Guardians organization. Cleveland fans immediately became familiar with Allen -- with Twitter exploding the night he was drafted, and jokes between he and his elder namesake lighting up the social media platform.
“I still get his baseball card sent to my house. I’m about tired of that,” Allen said, with a big laugh. “I thought, at first, I’d sign it and send it back, but then I thought, ‘I’m just going to keep getting more.’”
His name, though, is the only thing lacking originality for the southpaw within Cleveland’s farm system. In a time where overpowering arms or hurlers with go-to specialty pitches have become the norm, Guardians pitching coordinator Joel Mangrum described Allen as an old-school player, one capable of turning to any offering in any count and fearlessly pounding the strike zone.
It’s clearly a mentality that paid off in 2021, as Allen dominated his first season in professional baseball, finishing fourth in the Minors in ERA (2.10) and eighth in WHIP (0.93), while boasting a sparkling 9-0 record with a 143/26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 111 1/3 innings split between High-A Lake County and Double-A Akron.
“He had a tremendous year,” Mangrum said of Allen, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cleveland's No. 10 prospect. “In the Draft, we were really, really excited when he made it to us. … Tremendous job by our scouts and, you know, we’re seeing the payoff for it.”
Allen went from a two-way star at Florida International to a second-round pick out of the 2020 MLB Draft. Though he’s slowly coming to terms with the fact that he’ll no longer be hitting, he’s found a way to be one of the most talked about prospects Cleveland has.
The team expected him to move quickly through its system, simply because the shortened 2020 season forced plenty of players to jump to a higher competition level in ’21 than they would’ve the previous year, but no one could’ve predicted just how fast Allen was going to make an impact.
In nine starts with High-A Lake County, Allen pitched to a 1.58 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. He was rewarded with a callup to Double-A Akron, where he proceeded to own a 2.85 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 60 frames, landing him on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year.
“We felt like he was a guy that could fly,” Mangrum said. “We still feel that way.”
If he had to choose, Allen would say his changeup is probably his best pitch over his heater and slider, but he’s confident that all three will be equally effective in ’22. His offseason work already has demonstrated improvements in his slider, and the southpaw has another secret that he’s hoping will help him take another step forward this year.
“He's also got some power to him, too, being left-handed and [able to] go into the mid 90s,” Mangrum said. “He’s just a pitcher and a competitor. The changeup is definitely a real weapon for him, but like he said, his fastball and slider [are] going to be a little bit better this year and he's looking at adding a fourth pitch.
"It should be hopefully a fun year for him.”
With only one season in the Minors under a player’s belt, it’s rare to think that the big leagues are on the horizon, but with what Allen has been able to accomplish in minimal time it’s hard not to consider how soon his arrival may be. MLB Pipeline projected Allen to reach the Majors at some point in 2023, but if his success continues, his debut may be closer than anyone realizes.
“He's worked a ton to advance his arsenal and try to force our hand and put himself in a spot where hopefully he’s pitching in the big leagues before we thought,” Mangrum said. “Which is great, you know? That's his job and he's doing a tremendous job of it.”