First Pitch: Is Stetson Allie the Breakout Prospect of 2014?

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.

**Stetson Allie Getting an Aggressive Push to Altoona in 2014

**Stetson Allie Showing Off His Effortless Power in Batting Practice (Video)

**Austin Meadows Dealing With a Hamstring Injury

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Minor League Spring Training Roster

**Draft Prospect Watch: Big Strikeout Numbers From Sean Reid-Foley

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Share This Post On
  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Is all of this sudden interest in Stetson Allie based on batting practice only? I liked his spreadsheet of where he hit most of his 21 HR’s last year (C, RC), but he seemed to hit a wall at Hi A – only 4 HR’s in over 200 AB’s? We have nothing to lose by sending him to AA, but that is an awfully aggressive move by the Pirates and could be their “fish or cut bait” statement to him. I still cannot understand the reason for turning to being a position player. I know he was a walk machine on the mound, but as far as I have heard, he never has had any arm problems, or has he?

    • gregenstein

      No arm problems, but if his ceiling was “closer of the future,” then moving him to a hitter is a good move. I am guessing his slider was simply uncontrollable to him. It may get high schoolers and A ballers out, but Pros are good enough to lay off more often than not.

      Personally, I think they’re wasting his canon arm at 1B, but I realize they wanted him to focus on the bat, and 1B is the easiest to pick up.

    • Andrew

      The guy walked eight batters in 2/3 of an inning in low A
      ball, he could not throw strikes.

  • lonleylibertarian

    Thanks again for all of your work in keeping the site interesting and the amount of work you put into the prospect guide. I keep my copy handy and have turned to it at least three times as I have followed the games on MLB at Bat…

    My breakout of the year is Joely Rodriguez – looks like he too is headed to Altoona – a solid first half could get him to Indy with a September call up ;-)

  • wkkortas

    It’s certainly an aggressive move, but, as Tim says, Allie is the one guy in the system who has POWER as opposed to just some power. He’s not going to be the youngest guy in AA, so I think it’s OK to see what he offers at the upper levels of the minors.

  • scbucsfan

    Have you seen him handle many breaking balls? Just thinking this might be a problem. I haven’t heard much about Luis Heredia, I was kind of hoping he would breakout this year. There was a lot of raw talent at 16 that just doesn’t seam to be coming together. I was hoping for big improvements with him coming to camp in shape.

  • stickyweb

    As the 24 hour marathon of “all Allie, all the time” concludes, I’m very excited the Bucs see something, whatever it is, to warrant the agressive promotion. We’ll know in a couple of months if it’s the right move or not, but I have a few comments. First, his attitude sounds exceptional, between the BSOHL and the adjustment to his stance. Second, I feel HRs are generally overrated (yeah I’m the guy that thinks Walker, Tabata and Mercer all had roughly equivalent years hitting as Pedro and therfore am not as concerned as everyone else if El Toro gets hurt), but man I love seeing the spray chart in the other post showing a lot of Stetson’s HRs going straight away or oppo. That was not the impression I had of his power. Third, did anyone else notice the perfect distribution on that spray chart: 7 dead pull HRs to left, 7 HRs to CF, and 7 more to RCF (with maybe one on the edge between center and RC). Pretty cool and no player could do that if he tried.
    Let’s hope it all comes together for Allie and all of the sudden the gaping hole at 1B in the farm system isn’t gaping quite as much.
    Maybe he’s saving Lasik for next year, one last arrow in his quiver, if you will. :-)

  • leowalter

    Except for the age difference,Allie’s story line is probably comparable to Joey Gallo of the Rangers. Gallo hit 40 HRs in A- last season,but his SO % was over 37 ! And I don’t know how many of those came off of top pitching prospects. I did hear him strike out twice one night against Glasnow,but then crush one when a fringy prospect came in.The difference in the two though ,besides their ages,is that while the Rangers still consider Gallo a big time prospect,many Pirate fans I see commenting on various sites seem to be just waiting for Allie to fail.

    • stickyweb

      Leo, I understand what you’re trying to say, but the “Except for the age difference” disclaimer is HUGE when you’re talking about nearly 3 years difference in A ball. In fact, I don’t think the 2 are comparable at all, gaudy HRs and loud K%s or not.
      I just don’t know that there are any comparables to Allie, whether that’s good or bad. Are there really any guys that have taken 2 years completely off from hitting and tried to pick it up again with only 150 professional ABs leading into his age 22 season, and then proceeded to crush the ball from Day 1 of that year? Gallo looks like the typical prospect who signed quick enough out of high school to get over 200 ABs the year he was drafted. He put up an OPS over 1.000 that year, then .961 last year as a 19 year old mostly in the same league as W Va plays in.
      As for Stetson, I think it’s a great sign that he got out of the chute so quickly last year, then obviously a bad sign that he couldn’t make any adjustments after being promoted. Another good sign that he was willing to take an honest look at what happened last year and change some things up, and another that the Bucs decided on the agressive push to start this year in Altoona. But from here it’s totally up to Allie whether he can deal with the off speed/breaking balls he’ll start seeing. But his stance and swing do look awfully sweet, don’t they?

      • emjayinTN

        Stick: I agree. Gallo is in his age 20 season and Allie is in his age 23 season, and how do we explain the 4 HR’s in 236 AB’s for Allie after being promoted to Hi A. BP power is great if it can be transferred to live pitching and game situations. The more I think about it, the more I cannot get past that glaring stat in Hi A, and based on that, the promotion to AA is undeserved. Oh, my breakout guy will be Buddy Borden.

        • Patrick Kelly

          I suppose you glossed over the part where Tim talked about his swing getting jacked up after moving to A+. I don’t know if this push is going to be good or bad for Allie, but the Bucs sure as hell know a lot more about what they are doing than you or I, so I will trust their judgement that what he experience was just a blip in his developmental radar.

          • emjayinTN

            PK: I saw that, but it was not the coaches who got his swing screwed up – he did it to himself, and that is the major problem. The inexperience and lack of pitch recognition probably moved him to try quick fixes. It is all about confidence and having the right tools between your ears. He has a new swing and I truly hope he keeps that through live game experience. Or, he could be the “El Dread” of 2014.

        • leowalter

          Emjay : do you realize how bad a 37 % SO rate really is ? I watched Alvarez in the low 20 % range at AA ,and knew he was going to have trouble at the MLB level. I can’t imagine any one ,I don’t care what the OPS is/was,
          % in A- is a real bad sign.

      • leowalter

        I don’t think there is such a huge difference when you are talking about about the time spent in A- as opposed to the chronological years Sticky. If Allie would be on his third year at the lower levels,I could see the argument,but I can almost guarantee you that when you have the swing and miss issues that a Gallo has,he will need every one of those years of age difference to resolve his problems. If you read my earlier post,you might notice that I also posed the question of how many of those HRs and OPS points came against fringe prospects as opposed to guys like Glasnow,who had no trouble with him.

  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    I like Rojas as the breakout player, if not this year then next. Something about that kid’s approach and ability that I really like. Could be a strong player soon.

    • smurph

      Rojas might be a good pick. He could still add a few pounds of muscle. He has an imposing swing from the left side. Not so sure about him hitting right-handed – kind of similar to Walker.

  • freddylang

    If Mid-May comes and Allie still is in AA and has even average numbers such as a .250-.260 average and nice power numbers it will be extremely encouraging. At bat-wise he has the experience of a 20 year old. Andrew Lambo had a similar amount of ABs and games to Allie and he was finishing up his first year in full season ball. So I think there is still a lot of reason to dream on Allie and don’t really understand why people got down on his Bradenton performance last year. He is still not even close to 1000 minor league Abs.

    • leowalter

      My point exactly freddy.

  • PiratesFan1975

    Fangraphs has BABIP for minor leaguers. It looks like it actually wasn’t as much of low BABIP #’s in Bradenton as it was he had very high BABIP #’s in WV.

    .323 in Bradenton & .413 in WV.