It’s been a rough start to the 2012 season for right-hander Stetson Allie. The 2010 second round draft pick left his first start of the year after recording one out. He walked four, didn’t allow a hit, and gave up two runs. He went 14 days until he made his next appearance, missing time with tightness in his elbow due to pitching in cold weather.
His next outing was very similar to the first outing. This time he came in to the game as a reliever. The results were the same: one out recorded, four walks, and two runs. After his second appearance, the Pirates sent Allie down to extended Spring Training with a focus on improving his command.
Allie was much improved with his command during Spring Training. He did run in to command issues as he reached the third, fourth, and fifth innings, but his command looked great in the first two innings, and his pitches absolutely dominated hitters. Obviously that didn’t carry over to the regular season.
“Does confidence result in performance, or does performance result in confidence? We’re going through that situation with Stetson,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “Here’s a guy in his senior year of high school was throwing 95-100 MPH with a power slider and striking out the world, pounding the zone. For about a year now, he’s had some struggles with command. Sometimes spraying it, sometimes missing it. We’re working through some issues with him. No doubt there’s challenges. Sometimes its tough to remember that he would be a sophomore in college right now, so we got plenty of time…We still love the arm. He’s still competing. We just got some delivery things and some approach things to continue to help him develop.”
Allie ran in to similar issues last year in State College. The Pirates moved him to the bullpen to give him a chance to work more frequently on his command issues, all while focusing on getting three outs, rather than focusing on spreading his stuff out over four or five innings. He will take a similar approach in extended Spring Training. Whether he starts or comes out of the bullpen, he will make shorter, more frequent appearances. He will have a chance to return to West Virginia, but the timing of that return will depend on how his command looks.
There are some concerns that his command will never work out, at least not as a starter. There have been studies inside baseball looking at aggression with players on the field. In general, aggression is seen as a bad thing. That’s because it is usually hard for a player to harness aggression and use it as an asset. The one positional exception is relief pitching. That aggression, even when unchecked, is an asset in the bullpen.
Allie’s control looked good in the early innings during Spring Training. The fact that he did it there proves he has the talent to dominate hitters and pitch with control. But once he got in to games that counted, his control went away. That lends credit to the theory that his aggression kicked in, which led to his loss of control. Only Allie would know if that’s the issue with his control once he gets in to games. Allie has one of the best arms in the system, and his slider is one of the best breaking pitches in the system. He’s developing a changeup, but that doesn’t make him any different than other pitchers out of high school. He has the tools to be a starting pitcher, but if the issue with him is the aggression theory, he’ll be destined for the bullpen.
Tony Sanchez Getting Extra Work on Throws
by Kristy Robinson
Catcher Tony Sanchez has been getting extra work on defense while with the Double-A Altoona Curve. Tom Prince, who is the Manager for the GCL Pirates and also serves as the Pirates’ Minor League Catching Instructor, has been working with Sanchez, along with the other catchers Ramon Cabrera and Charlie Cutler, on their throws and defense.
The Pirates also sent non-roster catcher Miguel Perez, who has 10 years minor league service time, to Altoona where he is working with the young catching staff.
“He’s going to help all of us with getting our work done everyday,” Sanchez said. “He’s definitely a guy that knows a lot about the game. Who has a lot of experience at the big league level. He’s got a lot to teach us. We’re going to take advantage of that opportunity.”
“Tom Prince has been here while he has been here. We’ve all been working with Princey. Once Prince leaves, I’ll have more of a chance to work with Miguel. He’ll be getting his work in too. He’s going to be teaching us some things, but we’re going to be making sure he’s going to get his work in as well.”
Sanchez entered game action on Thursday having thrown out four of the 25 base stealers (16%) against him with the Double-A Curve in 2012. However, in the minors pitchers don’t always focus on keeping runners close, so the stolen bases aren’t necessarily a fair assessment.
“In the back of my mind I’m always like, ‘God. I want to throw this guy out. I want to throw that guy out. I want to throw them all out.’ As I’ve matured over the years in pro ball, I’ve understood the fact that it’s not at the top of the totem pole as far as priorities go,” Sanchez said. “As long as my times are quick and my throws are on the bag, that’s all I can really worry about. That’s something I’ve learned. It really hasn’t bothered me like it did earlier in my career. But now, I know what they’re looking for and what goes into reports. I just take control of what I can.”
The 23-year-old started the 2012 season back at Double-A, after appearing in 118 games with Altoona last season. Sanchez entered game action on Sunday hitting for a .245/.339/.367 line in 49 at-bats over 13 games. Sanchez continues to takes strides forward by handling the pitching staff.
“Pitch calling and getting them through innings, making sure we’re attacking hitters the right way, going with pitchers strengths and weaknesses,” Sanchez said is the top of his priorities. “I put a lot of effort into researching what I can do with these guys. How I can benefit them back there so I can do the best I can to give the best opportunity to succeed. I’ve done a good job with that. It doesn’t show in the win and loss columns, but there’s many other factors that take place throughout a game. We’re doing a good job. We’re working on it. I’m going to continue to work.”
Hitting Streak Over for Hanson
West Virginia shortstop Alen Hanson had his hitting streak snapped at 16 games on Friday, going 0-for-4. The 16 game hitting streak was the longest of the 2012 season for any Pirates’ minor league player, and was the longest of the season in the South Atlantic League. Hanson went 2-for-4 with a triple on Saturday, and is now hitting for a .389/.426/.695 line in 95 at-bats on the year.