Being sent to a full-season affiliate as a 19-year-old may have been a big deal for shortstop prospect Nick Allen, but the Oakland A’s made sure its third-round selection in the 2017 draft was prepared by pushing him throughout the spring.
Less than a year removed from a successful prep career in San Diego, the 5-foot-9, 155-pound infielder found himself amongst big leaguers nine times during spring training, including one game that he started which was on TV against Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Alex Wood.
“He’s one of their guys,” Allen said. “I never really processed it that much until after the game, because during the game it’s just the pitcher and you. After it was like ‘wow, I was in high school a year ago and now I am where I am’. But I’ve worked hard to be here and will keep working hard to see where this goes.”
Allen arrived at spring camp before the bulk of the A’s minor leaguers, as the organization looked to put the prospect on the fast track. It was something he embraced from the start.
“Being out there and getting an opportunity to go out there and practice with the big-league team was very special to me,” he said. “Hopefully it gets the juices flowing a little bit and pushes me to keep working harder and harder. Hopefully I’ll be there with them on a full-time basis. They didn’t really go into any specifics with me (on why I was there). One thing I know is they wanted me out there early getting work in, keep progressing in my game and getting better.”
The middle infielder soaked in every bit of advice he got from the A’s incumbent starting shortstop, Marcus Semien.
“He was very kind, but they were all kind and professionals,” Allen said. “On the field and in the clubhouse, they were great. Marcus was really awesome and told me how he goes through his routine every day.”
After slashing .254/.322/.326 in 35 games with the AZL A’s last summer, Allen will look to carry over his time in big league camp into a spot at the top of the order for the Snappers.
“Everywhere you go you take little bits and pieces, what you learn you try to apply it to what you want to do currently during that day,” he said. “Here, it’s dealing with the cold and being able to calm down, relax and focus on what you need to do during the time you have to do it. The big leaguers had a big impact, because they really took the game slow and stuck to their routine and did what they needed to do.”
Allen has opened 2018 with four hits in 17 at-bats, including a double and three RBI.
He’s already noticed a pattern against Midwest League pitchers during the frigid conditions that occur on a nightly basis.
“In the cold weather, everyone is going to want to blow the fastball by you inside just to jam you up a little bit,” he said. “That’s part of the game and part of the process. For me, my whole thing is battling and making sure I don’t give an at-bat away. I need to work on the things in the cage I need to work on, so when I go out to the field all I have to do is battle and the rest will take care of itself.”
As would be expected, Allen has faced a different level of competition starting out at Low-A Beloit.
“I got my chance to face some big leaguers and then also some guys that are in Double-A or Triple-A in the spring,” Allen said. “All the pitchers have great stuff. It’s just at those levels, they can do their job and execute it at a different level. It was cool to be able to see that type of pitching and that will only help me out as a go further.”
Just one week into his first full professional season, Allen is hoping to weather the storm that spring in the Midwest presents and keep himself on the fast track that the A’s organization has put him on.
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