The Marlins have agreed to a minor league contract with catcher Austin Allen, as first indicated on the team’s transactions log at MLB.com. The former Padres and Athletics backstop will presumably vie for a roster spot in Spring Training with the Fish.
Allen, 29 next month, was a fourth-round pick of the Padres in 2015 who went from San Diego to Oakland as part of 2019’s Jurickson Profar trade. Baseball America ranked him 16th among San Diego farmhands at the time of the swap and 11th among A’s prospects a year later, but despite consistently impressing in Triple-A (.314/.365/.583 in 820 plate appearances), Allen has never gotten much of a look in the big leagues. Suspect glovework appears to be the primary reason, as he’s long been touted as a bat-first player with plenty of concerns regarding his ability to stay behind the plate. Allen has spent increased time at first base and designated hitter in recent seasons but remained productive in the upper minors.
Chances at the MLB level were sparse for Allen, particularly in Oakland, where standout Sean Murphy understandably logged the lion’s share of playing time and more defensive-minded players have typically served as his backup. Allen never received more than 35 plate appearances in a season with Oakland and saw only a career-high 71 during his debut campaign with San Diego. In 127 MLB plate appearances, he’s a .195/.252/.288 hitter.
There’s little doubting Allen’s power, however. He’s had four seasons in the minors with between 20 and 22 home runs, despite never topping 121 games played in any of those years. And, while he’s fanned at a troubling 37% clip in his small sample of MLB action, his 20.4% mark in a larger sample of Triple-A plate appearances is less concerning.
Allen is out of minor league options, so if he makes the Marlins’ roster at any point, he won’t be able to be sent back to Triple-A without first clearing waivers. He’s likely a depth signing behind Jacob Stallings and Nick Fortes, but Miami is fairly thin at catcher in the upper minors, so Allen could be the top option in the event of an injury. Of course, subsequent offseason additions, be they Major League acquisitions or further non-roster pickups, could see Allen pushed down the depth chart a bit.