Stetson Allie is as intriguing as they come when it comes to the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system. You all know the story. Allie was drafted as a power pitcher with the ability to hit triple digits and blow the ball by a batter. The only problem was that control did not accompany the velocity, and the Pirates chose to put their chips in Allie as a fielder. He has bounced from third base to first base and finally to right field this year with the Altoona Curve.
When it comes to raw strength and power, Stetson Allie resides at the top of the list. No one can hit a home run like he can within the system. The guy can mash a baseball. He even hits them off of hotels (see below).
So far this season, Allie has seven home runs and an ISO of .201. He has either a home run or double in half of his hits this season. What’s the problem, then? Allie is barely hovering over the Mendoza Line with a .201 batting average in 36 games this year for the Curve. He has 28 hits in 139 at bats, with seven doubles and seven home runs. The trouble does not stop there.
Allie is walking about half the time he did in both 2013 and 2014 as well as striking out more often than any point in his career. See the numbers below.
|2013||WV & BRA||.277||.378||.483||28.3%||13.5%||21|
The first thought to cross your mind is the position change. Some players don’t respond well at the plate when they are in the midst of a change in the field, as Allie was at the beginning of this season. However, it has been the opposite for him so far this year. He hit .231 in April and has turned in a .176 batting average so far in May.
There are a lot of ways to look at Allie’s stats to try to see what is working and what is not working. He has a better average in limited appearances against lefties with a .229 average, but he only has one home run against lefties compared to six against right-handed pitchers. No matter which way you slice it, his batting average, as well as his OPB, are down considerably from where the Pirates would hope he would be at this point.
Striking out 30% of the time in your second year at Double-A is not good. I wanted to pull a few examples of other players in the majors who are known (or were known) to hit for power but still strike out a lot to see how they performed in the minors. For Pirates fans, let’s take a look at how Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte fared in the minors.
Alvarez only spent a short amount of time in Altoona where he struck out 22.9% of the time and had a walk rate of 13.2%. He also struck out over 30% of the time while hitting more than 30 home runs in 2012 and 2013 in the majors. He never struck out over 25% of the time in the minors, though.
Marte is a player that has struck out between 24-28% while in the majors. As with Alvarez, he is the other player on the current Pirates roster who you would think of as striking out a lot through his career. Marte spent 2011 in Altoona where he struck out 17.5% of the time and walked only 3.8% of the time. Both examples of Alvarez and Marte show the increase in strikeout rate once they reached the majors.
When thinking of other players who have recently hit a lot of home runs while striking out often, Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds would quickly come to mind. In Reynolds’ first year in Double-A baseball, he had a strikeout rate of 29.1%; however, he was able to lower that number to 20.6%, as well as walking 12.9% of the time, in his second full year in Double-A. Adam Dunn struck out at a 18.5% rate during a short stint in Double-A, and he had a career minor league strike out rate of 18.2%.
I bring up these stats because it shows some real examples of players that strike out a lot in the majors and where they were while playing in the minor leagues. With all of these players, they were able to keep their strikeout rates down (Reynolds in his second full year in Double-A) in the minors. I don’t want to compare these players to Stetson Allie; rather, I want to show the increase in strikeout rates when a player reaches the majors. Aside from Marte, the other players have all found success (some more than others) while hitting home runs, striking out often, and having a batting average less than the league average. What they all have in common is that they were able to limit their strikeouts in the minors while hitting home runs and having a higher batting average.
Currently, Allie has a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate. He is a little behind the ball because of beginning his career as a pitcher, but as a 24-year-old, his time to figure it out is starting to run out. Allie needs to show that he can hit for average while lowering his strikeout rate. He also needs to begin to draw more walks, as a 7.8% walk rate simply will not cut it if he is able to move forward in his development.
Watching Allie hit during their last home stand in Altoona, it felt like he either hit the ball extremely hard (sometimes right at fielders) or struck out. Allie feels that it is his job to drive in runs, not to necessarily have a high batting average.
“In the position I’m at, it’s better if I’m driving runs in and hitting home runs,” Allie said. “Average will come if I keep putting the ball in play and hitting it hard.”
With Altoona hitting coach Kevin Riggs preaching a shorter and simpler swing with two strikes, it will be interesting to see if Allie is able to change his approach to limit the strikeouts. Everyone knows he has the power and raw hitting ability. He just needs that to translate into more base hits and walks to accompany the power.