ALTOONA – Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire recently celebrated their 21st birthdays this spring, the former just a week ago. The number two and seven prospects in the Pirates system, respectively, are up-and-coming prospects and are currently trying to grasp the ropes of Double-A baseball. On the other hand, Stetson Allie, who was ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball as a pitcher when he was drafted in 2010, is 25 years old. The Altoona Curve is filled with players who are 22 – 24 years-old, which is not much different than the 25-year-old outfielder, but it feels like the once promising pitcher has been around the block a time or two in the Pirates’ minor league system.
Allie’s pitching career was put on hold in 2012 when he converted to a position player. First, he moved to first base. Then, it was a little third base. Back to first base for a few years. Last year rolls in, and Allie is all of a sudden an everyday right fielder for the Curve.
In all actuality, Allie was pushed through the Pirates’ system as a position player rather quickly. He played a handful of games in rookie ball in 2012, then he was aggressively pushed through West Virginia and Bradenton in 2013. In 2014, Allie put up some decent numbers for the Altoona Curve with an .801 OPS, but the Pirates wanted him to cut back on the strikeouts, so they started him in Altoona again in 2015.
With Josh Bell taking the helm at first base last year, the Pirates made the decision to make Allie an everyday outfielder. The decision was brought upon Allie quickly, as he did not have a full off-season to prepare as an outfielder. Unfortunately, Allie failed to impress both offensively and defensively last season in Altoona, and it quickly felt that he may be skipped over in the line of prospects quickly moving up in an ever evolving minor league system.
Allie had different plans going into this season. He was able to prepare all off-season as an outfielder — trimming up, getting quicker, and working on outfielder drills. Allie, who said he cut about 15 pounds in the process, credits his age and continued maturity as the means to a successful 2016 campaign.
“Coming into this year, I knew what I had to do everyday to earn the playing time,” Allie said. “I’ve grown as a person, and I’m finally starting to trust myself more as a baseball player. I have to trust in the work that I put in every day.”
Allie was fully aware of the crowded outfield in Altoona this season, and he also knew that he had to take full advantage of the extra playing time he received early in the year as a result of Austin Meadow’s spring injury.
“As a younger guy, I would’ve put a ton of pressure on myself,” Allie said, “but I’m 25 now. I’ve matured a lot, and now it’s just going out there and playing the game that I’ve played since I was a little kid.”
The numbers aren’t quite eye-popping, but Allie has progressed back to similar numbers he put up in 2014, with a strikeout rate that has dropped from 28.8% last year to 25.5% this year. Currently, he is batting .239 with a .760 OPS. He’s added two triples and three home runs to his scorecard.
He says that he has gone into this season being more aggressive than in the past, rather than waiting on that perfect ball to try to knock out of the park. A lot of times, that waiting would result in a well thrown breaking ball and, ultimately, a strikeout.
“What I’ve done this year is become really aggressive,” Allie said, “not so aggressive where I’m swinging at stuff in the dirt, but I’m swinging at strikes. For me, as a power guy, if I’m getting a first pitch fastball, I need to capitalize on it. More times than not, the next pitch is going to be something off speed.”
Statistically, though, Allie is actually taking more walks this season than last, with a 14.6% walk rate. What actually may be helping Allie the most this season is that he is keeping the ball on the ground at a higher rate, rather than always seemingly flying out. He has a ground ball rate of 43% compared to 34.9% last year. Couple those stats with a BABIP of .300 this season compared to .256 last year, Allie has made well of the chances he has when putting the ball into play.
Defensively, Allie was described by one scout as having a 70+ rated arm in the outfield. He has completely turned it around in right field this year. He’s running routes well. He’s judging fly ball depth extremely well. He’s, as always, showing off his extremely strong arm when necessary.
Last year, Allie said it was difficult at times to leave his offensive struggles at the plate and not take them out into the field. The same could’ve been said defensively, when it was obvious that he was struggling with learning the position. The opposite could be said of this season.
“They say to separate from your at-bat and not to take it out in the field,” Allie said. “Last year, I used to be that guy that had a bad at-bat and took it out there. This year, I’m going out there thinking — if they rob me of my hit, I’m going to take away theirs. It has helped tremendously.”
He now takes pride in his defensive game, and it is that defensive game that could eventually lead to a Triple-A promotion at some point this year, even if it is for a cup of coffee at the end of the season.
“The game has changed so much that defense is huge now,” Allie said. “I took a little more pride this past off-season to get a little faster and get in better shape for the outfield. I’m not training for first base anymore. I’m an outfielder now. I practice routes and take fly balls. It’s night and day from last year.”
Ultimately, Stetson Allie has matured as a person and as a player. He seems to be much more relaxed in the clubhouse. Seemingly the team DJ on nights after a win, he is well-respected and keeps things loose with his teammates. He has learned from his failures, mistakes, and successes, and he craves to be the absolute best player he can be.
“Last season, I had a lot of failure, but I also had some good,” Allie said. “I think last year, I had the biggest learning curve as a position player. Coming into spring, I had to mindset to just go out and play. It doesn’t matter who’s behind me or this or that, just go out and play. I can earn playing time by just being myself.”
Curve manager Joey Cora agrees that Allie looks like a different player from what he’s heard of him in the past.
“Allie is working his tail off everyday,” Cora said. “You see it in BP — working extremely hard on defense. The thing he has done this year different from previous years, from what I’ve heard, is that he’s able to separate offense from defense. He can strike out three times, but he can still go out there and play good defense. That’s a sign of maturity from him.”
Age doesn’t matter to Allie. All that matters is continuing to improve as a baseball player.
“If you go out and bust your tail everyday, you’re going to get playing time,” Allie said. “25 years old is still young in this game. Regardless of this or that, I’m just going to do what I do, and see what happens.”