The Oakland A’s have already seen seven players make their MLB debuts this season, as their rebuilding transition plus a rash of injuries have opened up virtually unlimited opportunities.
The most anticipated of those arrivals belonged to Nick Allen. Athletics Nation has been following the top infield prospect for years, ever since he was drafted out of high school in 2017, with hopes that he’ll be an impactful part of the club’s future. He’s renowned for his defense at shortstop, ranking as the best in the minors the past three summers and considered a future Gold Glover.
But what about his bat? Scouting reports weren’t as excited about him in that area, but nevertheless he hit pretty well throughout the minors, enough to keep moving quickly up the ladder.
He finally debuted on Tuesday, giving us our first live look at the 23-year-old. He went 0-for-3 in his first try against MLB pitching, though he did reach on an error, and he had a bit of fun on defense.
Allen got his next chance on Thursday. He was retired in his first two at-bats, but in the 7th inning he broke through. Facing Baltimore Orioles reliever Dillon Tate, he drilled a liner into the right field corner, sprinting around first base and diving into second for a double. First MLB hit!
It came with a 96.9 mph exit velocity, which is enough to qualify as hard-hit, and Statcast calculated a better than 50/50 chance of that piece of contact landing safely. That’s a legitimate drive, not just a lucky bloop.
Two batters later, Sheldon Neuse slapped a single to right, and Allen rounded third to score. The outfielder collected the ball and sent a throw home, promptly and accurately enough to make it a close play at the plate. But Allen showed off his blazing 60-grade speed and sharp fundamental skills and won the race, sliding mere inches ahead of the swipe tag. First MLB run!
Getting that first hit out of the way is always a big milestone, and Allen did it with a flourish. Extra bases, a mad dash home to score, and a pair of headfirst slides are an impressive way to put oneself on the board in the majors!
It turned out to be a crucial series of plays, too. Allen’s run proved to be the deciding tally in a 6-4 victory, and the late rally he sparked ultimately accounted for two runs.
Unfortunately, there was a twist of irony mixed in Thursday, with one more MLB first for Allen. While playing second base, he fielded a funky grounder and made a wide throw to first base, earning himself an error. The runner was retired a couple seconds later on a weird baserunning fluke, but the odd fact remained that the defensive wizard had recorded his first error before his first hit.
No matter, though, as a few innings later he notched his double and earned himself a batting average. And he did it in the way we might have imagined based on his minor league track record, where he tended to show an all-fields approach and make lots of productive contact despite modest power numbers.
Congratulations to Allen on his first MLB hit! Hopefully it’s one of many in an A’s uniform.