Leading up to Day 1 of the MLB Draft on June 12, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be first-rounders. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Our latest Q&A is with Nick Allen, a shortstop at Francis W. Parker HS in San Diego. Allen, who is one of the smaller players in the draft at 5-foot-9, 160 lbs. He is a USC commit who has been on the radar of scouts for about four or five years.
Allen is viewed as a borderline first-rounder, with is will go in the first half of the first round, with MLB.com‘s Jonathan Mayo (27th-Cubs) and Baseball America (30th-Cubs), both projecting him as a first-rounder. Be sure to check out Allen’s full scouting report over at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
At what point did you start playing baseball and realize you loved the game?
“I would have to say probably around the age of 4. I think I was always around the game a little bit younger than that because my brother was playing little league at the time and my dad was coaching him. I seriously started at about 4 and it all took off from there. I was on my first travel ball team at the age of 8, and that’s when the competitiveness started.”
Growing up, did you have a favorite team? Favorite player?
“I always liked the Padres. I liked Khalil Greene as well. I have to say it was always fun watching the Yankees and Derek Jeter. To see someone be a natural leader and natural captain, that’s how I try to model myself actually.”
Was there a turning point moment when you realized turning pro and becoming a top pick was likely?
“Honestly, no. Being me, I’ve always been confident in my game. Every step of the way, starting from the age of 8, I’ve felt like I’ve always been that impact player. Going up through all the ranks and now having just graduated and looking at the opportunity to either play professional baseball or go to college. I feel like I’m still that kind of impact player. That’s given me the opportunity to have a big decision and I’m thankful for that.”
You’ve had the hype surrounding you for a while on the scouting circuit, with attention on you since you were 13 or 14. What’s that like, to have the hype going on for so many years?
“It’s been surreal. I’ve been around good players on teams in the past because I’ve played a little bit up, so I guess you could say they were there to watch other people and I was on the field at the same time so they happened to get a glimpse of me. I’ve just been very fortunate in that aspect.”
What went into your decision to commit to USC?
“The first time I stepped on that campus, I just fell in love with it. There’s no words that can describe it. It just felt like home and the coaching staff is very great there. They made me feel very comfortable with everything. Also, the education is really second-to-none. It feels like a great opportunity for myself and I’m very thankful for that.”
What will be the deciding factors in your decision to either end up at USC or go pro?
“I don’t know if there are any deciding factors. When it comes up, my family and I will all sit down. There are two great options and I’m just looking forward to having that opportunity.”
What’s your biggest strength as a player?
“That’s tough to answer. Me being myself, I feel like I have strengths in all aspects of the game. I’d have to say I feel like I can do all kinds of things on the hitting side. I can lay down a bunt, get a guy over, get a guy in. Recently, I’m finding strength in my bat and hitting really hard line drives in the gaps and balls over people’s heads. I think that’s coming into play now, and my consistency on defense. I take pride in making the routine play. If the outstanding play comes my way, I guess it does. I feel like I’ve strengths in all aspects of the game.”
What’s the part of your game you hope to improve upon the most at the next level?
“I think just consistency. Being more consistent, and of course, making the routine play. Just consistently driving the baseball.”
In today’s game, big bats are rewarded and defense may not be the thing that catches the eye of a lott of people. You’re considered to have Gold Glove potential and really pride yourself on your defensive game. Why is that?
“Because you can save ballgames. I think that’s a big factor in baseball, being able to help your team. I take pride... no matter what I do at the plate, I always have to be at 100 percent on defense with my head focused in on helping the team hopefully get a W at the end of the day.”
You’re one of the smaller guy in this draft, being 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9. You don’t fit the typical shortstop profile. Why do you think you’ll be able to stay at that position long-term?
“I think because of my work ethic. Yes, I am a little bit of a smaller guy, but there are plenty of 5-foot-9 players in the MLB with great work ethic. If I keep doing what I’m doing and working hard, if it doesn’t go my way, I still know what I have to offer just because of how I go in and get the job done behind the scenes. It’ll all pay off in the end.”
The one thing that scouts have mentioned negatively is the power tool, which for some guys comes a little later. What is your plan to improve on that in the future?
“Really it’s not trying to improve it. It’s just being more consistent with my swings, getting the right slot and being a hitter first. Not worrying about when the power will come, it’ll just happen. I think that’s something I’ve been trying to improve upon and it’s been showing a little bit so I’m very thankful for that.”
What are the advantages and disadvantages to your height as a player?
“I have to say being lower to the ground might be helpful to me, and then the smaller strike zone for being my size. I don’t know if there’s really strengths or weaknesses to it. I am what I am.”
Time for the comp question. Which major-leaguer’s game is most similar to yours?
“That’s a tough one, I have a couple players in mind. Maybe like a Jimmy Rollins, minus the switch-hitting. Or a Khalil Greene. A lot of people say Dustin Pedroia, but I feel like, being confident in myself, that I can stick at shortstop. I do look up to a lot of players and hopefully one day can create my own name in the big leagues. That’s what I’ll be working hard for.”
What are your expectations as to where you’ll fall on the draft board? Any goals?
“You know, honestly I do not know. I don’t even really know where I’ll go. There is a general location, but whatever happens, happens. Anything can happen in that short span and we’ve seen that happen in the past couple years. Like I said, I have a couple great decisions to make with USC or starting my career in the minor leagues. I’m just very thankful to be in this spot.”