Alliegeddon

The Pirates’ announcement that Stetson Allie is moving from the mound to thirdbase is hardly good news.  As a pitcher, Allie was rated as a mid-1st round talent at the time of the draft.  He had a 100-mph fastball and a devastating slider.  I watched both Allie and Jameson Taillon quite a bit in camp in March, and Allie’s stuff was better.  As a hitter, he was regarded as a good draft prospect, but not on the same level.  Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said he was closer to a round 3-5 talent as a hitter.  His skills as a hitter apparently mirror his skills as a pitcher:  great raw power but lots of swing and miss.  Ironically, his biggest problem as a hitter may be a lack of walks.

Nevertheless, the easily predictable screaming, and calls for Neal Huntington’s head, from certain mindless quarters of Pirate Nation is completely off-base.  There are plenty of reasons to harbor doubts about Huntington’s ability to turn the Pirates into a contender, but the team’s evaluation of Allie isn’t one of them.  At the time of the draft, there was remarkably little mystery about what he represented:  extremely high upside combined with extremely high risk.  It wasn’t just a matter of Allie’s control problems, either.  He pitched very little until his senior year in high school.  Once he did start pitching, he was encouraged to air it out in an effort to light up the radar guns, rather than to learn how to pitch.  Teams had no ability to see how he’d react to real coaching, or how he’d do with a reasonable amount of experience.  His chances of harnessing his outstanding raw ability were a complete unknown.  The only thing talent evaluators could know for sure was that the odds were probably against him panning out.

It was equally clear, though, that the risk was worth it.  Even in his walk-filled 2011 season at State College, he allowed only 20 hits and fanned 28 in 26 innings.  Back in March, Allie was showing some improvement in his command.  At times he even managed to get ahead of hitters, which gave him the opportunity actually to pitch, instead of just throw and hope he hit the strike zone.  The result when he was able to pitch was hitters flailing helplessly at nasty sliders.  The possibility of seeing him do that at the major league level was worth the financial gamble the Pirates took.  It’s amusing now to see the same pitchfork-wavers who scream endlessly about the team being unwilling to take chances with money wailing that $2.25M is too much to risk on a prospect like Allie.  Of course, none of them said that at the time of the draft.  Had the Pirates passed on Allie, the same people screaming now would have been screaming about the team being too cheap to draft the guy who, at the time they made their second round pick, was by far the highest-rated prospect left on the board.

One thing I’m confident I won’t see is people crediting the Pirates with having the guts to make a difficult decision.  We don’t know what specifically led to it.  Allie’s been in extended spring training since his early season meltdowns with West Virginia and the Pirates undoubtedly have been working to harness his stuff.  It obvious didn’t go well, but there’s no way to judge the decision to move him without knowing the specifics of how he was progressing, how he was responding to the coaching, and what led them to conclude it just wasn’t going to work out.  The loss of face will be considerable, but which would be better?  A front office that refuses to face reality, or one that’s willing to take the PR hit in order to pursue what’s best for the team’s future?  This isn’t a unique question.  I’ve always been struck at how Huntington never got an iota of credit for his willingness to make unpopular moves like trading away veterans for prospects (you remember him breaking up the ’27 Yankees, right?).  Huntington’s predecessor was entirely unwilling, except when ordered to dump salary by ownership, to trade veterans for prospects despite the fact that the team desperately needed to rebuild.  What a lot of Huntington’s critics have effectively been doing for years, without admitting it of course, is arguing for a return to the Littlefield years.

You can’t fix a problem until you know it exists.  At least with this move, there’s a chance of the Pirates getting a return for their $2.25M.  If the team waited another couple of years, their chances of getting any return at all would be near zero due to Allie’s age and the operation of the roster rules.  Huntington at least deserves credit for being willing to make the call in the face of the inevitable mob scene.  Would it really be better to have a front office afraid to do anything that might trigger a negative fan reaction?  Did that work so well before?

Analysis

  • RandyLinville
    June 5, 2012 7:52 pm

    Thanks for this – this is great. Regarding your quote: “There are plenty of reasons to harbor doubts about Huntington’s ability to turn the Pirates into a contender, but the team’s evaluation of Allie isn’t one of them.” I agree 100%. My issue with this isn’t their evaluation of him, but in how they went about executing his development. Everyone knew he had control issues and that this was a huge risk. No qualms with the pick. And no qualms with the money spent.

    I have a couple of issues. First, how did the club not have a plan in place (or at least a good plan) to get him on track? If I go to my boss and tell him I need 20% of the budget (his bonus was roughly 20% of what Pittsburgh spent on the draft in 2010) and I need to tie up two years and a lot of my company’s resources, I had better have a good plan in place to make whatever project I’m suggesting turn out well. Otherwise, I’m in deep doo doo. I have to think Pittsburgh and every other team had some clue of how coachable Allie is. Maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t teams allowed to interact with high school kids? I mean, this isn’t the NCAA limiting contact, right? So, I’m not willing to absolve the Pirates of blame and give the FO a free pass. I’m not willing to blame his little league coaches who didn’t have him pitch when he was younger. The Pirates should have vetted his interest in pitching before they signed him – if his heart wasn’t in it, the club should’ve been aware of that.

    Secondly, where are the bats at the lower level of the minors? Someone who has not been hitting on purpose in two years is one of the best power prospects this club has? I’m not willing to absolve the FO of this gaffe, either. On many levels, not having power bats in development is a major screw up. How is this not disturbing?

    Lastly, we can’t have the small market/tight budget quandary go both ways. The apologists for the FO would tell fans it is unfair to complain about the low payroll at the big league level. Those same apologists will also point to this and other things (the signing of Barmes) as examples of the club spending money. You can’t have it both ways – if you are going to have a low payroll, you can’t get a free pass when the money spent provides less than an expected return (Allie, Barmes, etc).

    • Stetson is a baseball player, every day, hours every day, all summer long. He loves baseball. Practice baseball in the morning, play game in afternoon, practice hitting in the evening, seven days a week if you let him – baseball gym rat.

      Very solid person with head on straight.

      He has pitched his whole life, but as a position player. Does that make sense. As long as he was hitting, pitching was cool. No BP at A ball; pitch one day for 3 innings, sit for 5 days, no hitting or fielding probably drove him nuts.

      Almost every year he played baseball growing up he pitched every X games. He was not a “starting pitcher” in high school until his senior year, he was the closer as a Freshman, Sophmore and Junior. Believe he hit .400+ for 4 years, pitched around in almost every at bat. The vast majority of pitches he saw in high school that weren’t either on the black or a ball were by mistake.

      Extremely fluid hitter in high school and travel ball, very patient for a good pitch in good counts and could drive any 2 strike pitch where it was pitched. Could consistantly hit pitches on the edge of the strike zone for line drives, but will probably need to lay off those at this level.

      Fundamentally sound. Knows the right play for every situation and position – bunt, move runners over, sacrafice fly, each count, has played many games at every position.

      Played last year of travel ball with top US team, hitting .300+ off of consistant 88+ mhp, top 100 prospect, pitching. Usually the better/faster the pitching the better he hit.

      Very clutch player, calm and focused in stress situations – many game-tying, game-winning RBIs / home runs / closer role.

      disclaimer – not family; family friend played on team, watched many games.

  • Too much talk about Allie throwing 100mph, he can touch 100mph, he does not throw 100mph, he sits 94-97 and can’t get those pitches any where near the plate.
    What would be better?
    A possible good relief pitcher? or a good power hitter in this system?

  • If Allie’s heart wasn’t into pitching it may be important for hiim psychologically to have a go at being a position player.
    Hopefully he will be successful. It could be that if he struggles in low minors he’ll go back to pitching.
    How is that for major speculation? I think timing of this move was so he could be ready to start as position player in Gulf Coast League. Can’t see any reason why he would start at a higher level. IMO best case scenario is that he does well at Bradenton and gets promoted to State College and then WV next season.

  • Tim or Wilbur needs to do a big thorough article on the percentage of draftees that bust. Way too many baseball fans think the mlb draft is akin to the nfl draft. Off the top of my head I’d guess that 40% of 1st round picks hit, 15% of 2nd round picks, 5% of 3rd rounders.

    All the Allie talk needs to address this.

    • BA did a study on this several years ago, but I lost the link and can’t find it in their archives. I don’t remember exact numbers, but the percentages you give aren’t too far off.

  • His dad said that they were having him do both down in extended spring training. He said it came down to Stetson’s wanting to play every day and his frustration at his loss of control.

    His dad was a coach, btw. He played 3rd and 1st. Very athletic. He said his bat is much improved over what it was. He saw him two weeks ago.

    Bottom line: It’s the Pirates’ money. If they want to change him, its their prerogative. He doesn’t seem to have much arrogance about him. His dad said he was very cooperative.

    • buccotime57
      June 4, 2012 3:18 pm

      The fan never has anything positive to say…NH has done a good job of rebuilding the system and putting a competitive team team on the field…if allie does work out they wont give anyone credit

      • glad I don’t listen to them. I just happened to be home and Allie was on. I don’t live in Pgh. I listened on the ‘net.

        • buccotime57
          June 4, 2012 5:03 pm

          they always seem to talk down to the pirates/ whatever they do..hey if rick ankiel can do it… allie can he is much younger so he may have a better chance we will have to see i wonder when they will start playing him prob better than kirk singer at WV..

      • They don’t have anyone on the fan that knows baseball, that is their problem!

    • buccotime….all of my quotes are from Danny Allie………nothing from the Fan talking heads.

  • His dad is on 93.7 FAN right now. He hasn’t said whose idea it was yet.

  • I’m still interested to see who’s idea this really was. From an organization’s stand point, if they feel this is the route that’s going to get him to the pro’s, then I agree. He’s already 21, no sense in wasting time. If it was Allie that had such a problem with staying a pitcher…I feel as though I would question his dedication and motivation.

    • see my summary of what his dad said.

    • BA posted an article saying it was a mutual decision.

      • I see. I suppose I just find it especially aggravating whenever there’s a prime example like Duke Welker ahead of him. Had terrible control coming in, but once he put it together, he’s essentially gone from high-A to knocking on the door to pittsburgh inside of a season and a half.

  • I see one hole wioth your suggestion. What about players taken in later round that have no slot price. I believe there is a maximum slot after a point but surely a team would not be expected to offer this amount to everyone they drafted. Couldn’t those players elect for Free Agency?

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