Tonight we learned that the Pirates are converting Stetson Allie to a position player, ending his brief run as a pitcher. As a pitcher, Allie had one of the best arms in the system, if not the best. He was sitting in the 94-96 MPH range in Spring Training, and has touched 100 MPH in the past. He also throws a sharp breaking slider, which is a plus pitch. The problem was always control.
Allie lacked control and command of his fastball, which was partially due to his inexperience as a pitcher. He first started pitching as a senior in high school. He showed improvements with his command from 2011 to 2012, and his control was much better in Spring Training outings. But that control quickly went away, as Allie gave up eight walks in 0.2 innings over two appearances. His control only got worse in extended Spring Training, which prompted the move to a hitter.
Coming out of the draft in 2010, Allie was regarded as one of the top power hitters in the prep class. He still has that raw power, which I saw on display last year during instructs. But the problem is still control. As Kevin Goldstein points out, Allie had raw power, but a lot of swing and miss. It’s one thing to have power. But power is useless if you don’t have plate patience to go with it. Allie probably has the best power in the system, but as we’ve seen with guys like Wes Freeman and Quincy Latimore, power is pretty ineffective if that’s all a hitter does.
Allie goes from a pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider and no control, to a hitter with raw power and poor plate patience. He’s changing positions, but they will still have work to do. Instead of working on his control, they’ll be working on his plate patience.
As a pitcher, Allie was more of a thrower. He also had the mentality that he wanted to blow opposing hitters away. I believe that led to a lot of the control issues. As a hitter, I’m not sure the mentality will change. My concern is that he’ll take the same aggressive approach, which will lead to home runs, strikeouts, and not that many walks.
If this move works out, it would be a huge boost for the system. The Pirates are strong with pitching depth, and weak with hitting talent, especially power hitters. But I have doubts that this move will work. For one, the Pirates have shown a better track record of developing pitchers and improving fastball command than they have with improving plate patience for hitters. A big example of their success with pitchers is Duke Welker, who went from a 9.1 BB/9 ratio in 2010 to a 2.7 BB/9 ratio this year. There have been a few success stories on offense. Robbie Grossman went from a 36.4% strikeout rate in 2009 to a 22.7% rate in 2011. But that could have been an issue with adjusting to the changeup in full season A-ball, which is something we’ve seen Josh Bell struggle with this year.
If anything, the move feels a bit rushed. The Pirates drafted Allie two years ago. They gave him a $2.25 M bonus to sign him as a pitcher. He’s only pitched in a short season league in 2011, and two appearances this year. That seems early to give up on a guy who has a great arm. He’s in a similar situation as before: a lot of power, but control issues. I’d have to say that I liked him better as a pitching prospect, just because of the plus slider, and the Pirates’ work on fastball command. We’ll have updated rankings out after the draft, and it will be interesting to see where Allie ends up after this move.
Links and Notes
**The Draft is tomorrow. Here is my preview to get you ready. I’ll have a live chat tomorrow during the draft.
**The Pirates won 6-5 against the Brewers, taking their first series in Milwaukee since 2010.
**Prospect Watch: Brandon Cumpton throws eight shutout innings.
**Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at James McDonald being snubbed for the NL Pitcher of the Month award.
**The Dominican Summer League started this weekend. John Dreker previews the notable players on the rosters.
**Interesting matchup tomorrow in Indianapolis: Rudy Owens takes on Zach Duke.