Rays Notes: Rays Claim Power-hitting 1B Brandon Allen

By Robbie Knopf

Per Mark Topkin, the Rays have claimed first baseman Brandon Allen from the Oakland Athletics. Allen provides the Rays with a power-hitting bench player who can handle first base and left field. Allen will immediately join the 25-man roster on Friday to fill the role than Stephen Vogt failed to fill and in fact, Vogt will likely be sent down to Triple-A Durham in an accompanying roster move. Allen smacked at least 20 home runs in each of the last four seasons in the minor leagues and he has a little speed, swiping 45 bases in 63 tries sine 2008. In 109 career major league games and 374 plate appearances, Allen has smacked 11 home runs and 19 doubles, but he has posted just a .202/.291/.375 line with 133 strikeouts, a ghastly 35.6% of his plate appearances (nearly double the league average). Allen will never be a great player, but he provides legitimate home run power off the bench, something the Rays severely lack.

B.J. Upton is set to come back Friday, and since Vogt will be sent down with Allen coming over, the Rays will have to make another move. Elliot Johnson or Reid Brignac could be the roster casualty. Johnson has more versatility but Brignac plays better defense at shortstop and has more offensive upside. None of that may matter because Johnson is out of options while Brignac has one left. Considering the Rays already have Zobrist and Rodriguez who can play multiple positions, I don’t think there’s any issue with keeping Brignac, but Johnson’s lack of options may keep him on the team because the Rays can’t send him down without exposing him to waivers. Personally, I would keep Brignac nevertheless because I’m not sold on Sean Rodriguez offensively and Brignac, if he can get a little more comfortable (and patient) at the plate, can start games at shortstop while Johnson is versatile and a “professional hitter,” but we’re in trouble if he has to start for an extended period of time.

One other new item: on Friday, in addition to Upton coming back and Allen joining the team, Topkin tweeted that Jeremy Hellickson will be honored with the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year Award and Joe Maddon will receive the Manger of the Year Award. It was nice to see those two get their proper recognition at the end of last season and it should be fun to honor them at the Trop.