Pirates converting pitcher Allie to hitter

| Sunday, June 3, 2012, 11:56 p.m.

The Pirates are converting high-priced prospect Stetson Allie from pitcher to hitter, the Tribune-Review has learned.

Allie, 21, was the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, signing for $2.25 million, well above Major League Baseball's recommended slot. His value was in velocity that routinely topped 100 mph while at St. Edward High near Cleveland.

Neal Huntington, the Pirates' general manager, said the change was made “recently.” No new position was specified, but Allie played third base in high school.

“Stetson was one of the few athletes in each draft to be considered a prospect as a pitcher and as a hitter,” Huntington said Sunday night from Bradenton, Fla. “We believed his highest upside was as a pitcher. We obviously were very pleased to sign him as a pitcher. Since then, we've faced some challenges with him as a pitcher.”

At the time of Allie's draft, other teams acknowledged his arm — most publications called it the strongest available — but were scared off because of his lack of control. That proved to be his undoing as a pitcher.

In 15 appearances last season for Single-A short-season State College, Allie had a 6.58 ERA while striking out 28 and walking 29 in 26 innings. This season, he made only two appearances for Single-A West Virginia in which he walked eight while recording two total outs. After the last appearance April 20, he was removed from action to try to refine his delivery.

That failing, the team allowed Allie to take batting practice recently in Bradenton “in an effort to free up his athleticism,” Huntington said. “Through that process, the determination was made that our best next step is to make the conversion full-time to position player.”

Allie didn't try pitching until his senior year of high school, when he went 9-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 60 innings. As a senior, he batted .500 with 14 doubles, three home runs and 32 RBI. As a junior, he played third base and shortstop and batted .450 with seven homers and 37 RBI.

Allie was recruited by North Carolina, but he passed up a scholarship to sign with the Pirates.

The Pirates' previous management team made a highly controversial decision to convert John Van Benschoten, their first-round pick in 2001, from hitter to pitcher after drafting him. Van Benschoten, the NCAA's home run leader that year at Kent State, still blames the team for his career in the majors fizzling.

Dejan Kovacevic and Rob Biertempfel are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@tribweb.com. Biertempfel can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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