Pretty much anytime I’ve seen someone this Spring, one of the first questions they’ve asked has been wondering who the breakout prospect would be this year in the minors. I’d like to think that’s because I was saying Tyler Glasnow and Stolmy Pimentel would be breakout prospects last year, or that I said Gregory Polanco would be a breakout prospect a year before. But I feel like it’s just part of the job of covering the minors, since I see these guys more than everyone else.
When it came to those three breakout predictions, I didn’t see something specific where a switch was flipped. I didn’t know instantly. It took some time. I watched them, and was impressed. So I made it a point to watch them again. Eventually they became a must-watch player. Any time they were taking batting practice or throwing a bullpen, I made it a point to watch. And eventually I was so impressed that I was comfortable calling them a breakout prospect.
I’m not saying that Stetson Allie is my breakout prospect of 2014, but I noticed something today. The last week has featured nothing but bullpen sessions and batting practice. I’ve gotten the chance to see a lot of players in camp so far, yet the one person I keep subconsciously coming back to is Allie. The first time I saw him this Spring, he was crushing home runs. I watched him again a few days later, and it was the same thing. I made a point to watch him yesterday, then did the same today. And each time I’ve been impressed.
I wrote about Allie today, pointing out that he will start the 2014 season in Altoona, after making a few changes. It’s pretty much the All-Star Game of Spring Training memes. He lost 15 pounds (best shape of his life). He fixed some problems with his batting stance last year (mechanical adjustments). He studied what went wrong last year, and he reflected on what he learned in his first year as a hitter (not sure what meme this is). If he got contacts or Lasik surgery, we’d have Spring Training meme Bingo (assuming we get the free space).
The thing about Allie is that this didn’t feel like a bunch of the usual sayings. I’ve heard people with the classic Spring Training memes, and there’s always a vibe where it feels like they’re just desperately hoping something will work. And that’s not the vibe I got from Allie today.
Allie didn’t need to lose weight. He said he lost weight to improve his game, and just because he felt he would be better if he lost the weight. When it comes to the batting stance, he sought out help from people who knew his swing, and people he trusted. As someone who saw him last year in Bradenton at the end of the year, and has seen him this year, I can tell you that the swing looks much better. The swing last year had a lot of effort. The swing this year looks natural, and the ball just flies off his bat. I didn’t need Allie telling me that he fixed his swing. I already saw that (which led to the question, which led to the answer and confirmation, if you’re interested in how the answer came about).
Perhaps the biggest vote of confidence here came from the Pirates. They’re promoting him to Altoona, despite a lack of success by Allie in Bradenton. There are two times that I can remember where the Pirates promoted a hitter to Double-A, despite struggles in High-A. The first time was Pedro Alvarez, who was struggling in Lynchburg, only to catch fire in Altoona after the promotion. The second one was Alex Presley, who struggled for two years in High-A, then was promoted to Altoona after big changes coming into the season.
Allie reminds me more of Presley. Not because Allie and Presley are comparable at all. They aren’t. He reminds me of Presley in the sense that they both made big adjustments to their game, and the Pirates gave them a vote of confidence with a promotion to Altoona that wasn’t statistically warranted. At the time, the Presley promotion seemed questionable, but we quickly saw why it was warranted.
I don’t know if this will happen with Allie, where he justifies the promotion by breaking out in Altoona. What I do know is that he has the best power in the system, and he’s the only guy who could match Pedro Alvarez’s power production in the majors. I know that he has been impressive every time I’ve seen him so far, and that the changes he made to his game were noticeable before he even talked with me about them. I know that he comes across as a guy who knows that he had flaws last year, and worked to correct those flaws. And I know that the Pirates are showing a lot of faith in him.
I’m not ready to say that Stetson Allie is my breakout candidate for the 2014 season. But right now he’s leading the pack.
Links and Notes
**Over the last week, the site and the Prospect Guide has gotten mentions on the Pirates broadcast at least twice, based on what you guys have told me. Between that, and my note that we were running low on Prospect Guides, there have been a rush of orders. It seems you guys like to procrastinate as much as I do. Fortunately, the publisher offered a sale to authors last week, which allowed me to purchase more books at a discount. That means I’ve got two more cases coming in on Saturday. You can order your books on the products page of the site.
**I’d also like to thank everyone who has purchased the book so far. It’s one thing to hear that the Pirates broadcasters use the book as a guide for minor league information. It’s another thing to know that so many people have found the book useful, or at least found it to be interesting enough to buy (hopefully it is useful). I really appreciate the support, and as usual, the book sales will allow me to make the site even better.
**Last week I put up a contest for a new logo. Thursday is the final day to submit a logo. I’ve gotten some great submissions so far, including one that is the consensus favorite from the voting crew (myself, a few Pirates Prospects writers, and my girlfriend). I’m not saying the decision has been made, but right now there is a definite leader, and anything else coming in will be competing against that logo. I’ll post the new logo on Friday.