After position adjustment, prospect Allie finding his groove
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Stetson Allie called his father not long ago, and the conversation, as it often does, turned to baseball.
“He said, ‘Dad, they're pitching me different,' and I said, ‘What did you think, that they'd stay the same?' ” said Danny Allie, who runs a baseball and softball academy in Florida. “That's not what the game is about. It's about making adjustments.”
Three years into his professional career, the younger Allie knows plenty about adjustments.
Drafted out of high school as a right-handed pitcher who could throw 100 mph, Allie and his power arm received a $2.25 million signing bonus in 2010. As a pro, however, Allie struggled with control. After two starts in Low-A West Virginia last season in which he walked eight and allowed four runs in a total of two-thirds of an inning, the Pirates abandoned the second-round pick's development as a pitcher and began turning him back into a position player.
This season, Allie is once again in West Virginia, and the move is beginning to pay off. Through Monday, his .322 batting average ranked 15th in the South Atlantic League, his .604 slugging percentage was third, and he was second in home runs (16) and RBI (55).
Allie said he's happier as a position player than he was as a pitcher, in part, because a bad game can be erased the next day.
“As a pitcher, it was once every five days, but now as a position guy it's got me thinking a little less because I can play every day,” Allie said. “It's been more fun.”
Gulf Coast League Pirates coach Mike Lum and instruction coordinator Tom Prince helped Allie return not only to the batter's box but also the field, beginning with third base, Allie said.
Allie switched positions again and now is playing first base, where he has made just three errors in 38 games and has a fielding percentage of .991. He also has been working with first-year hitting coach Orlando Merced, who learned of Allie's back story in spring training and knew there could be struggles with the strike zone.
“But I had no doubt, as soon as I saw him in the cage and hitting the ball in early work and batting practice, that his ability was going to allow him to be a good player,” Merced said. “I think he's showing right now his ability, his maturity at the plate. He's a legit player.”
With so much work to be done in his transformation, Allie didn't crack anyone's top-prospects lists heading into 2013. But he earned a mention on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet at the end of May, and last week the 22-year-old was named as a starter in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
“A lot of people I guess were, not in a negative way, but hoping he could turn the page and become a solid first baseman, a solid hitter,” Merced said. “I don't think the Pirates' organization ever had a doubt. I just think they were waiting for him to step up to the plate and do what he's doing right now.”
Power manager Mike Ryan said Allie recognizes pitches well but can get into some trouble when he tries to pull too many pitches. When he stays within his approach, however, Allie can hit the ball out of any part of the ballpark, Ryan said.
“He's on a great path,” Ryan said. “He still has a lot of work to do, and at the upper levels, when he gets there, they'll pitch him a lot differently than they will here, and he understands that.
“He understands there's work to be done, but the future looks bright for him. If he continues to do what he's doing he'll be just fine.”