In the five years since he was drafted, Stetson Allie has transitioned from a big-bonus, hard-throwing pitching prospect with control problems, to a power-hitting, nomadic position player who strikes out too much for comfort. He is like the prospect equivalent of a blunt force combat weapon. His upside, whether initially as a pitcher or now as a position player, is power and ability to overwhelm. Where he's fallen short thus far are in the areas of precision contact and targeted strikes.
The metaphor extends to both his physical presence and the first impression of his personality. He is bull-like, both in the thickness of his frame and in his refreshing bluntness and confidence.
One would think that a player who has bounced around five positions in five years would be a little frustrated with how the Pirates were managing his career. But that appears to be anything but the case.
"For me it's been nothing but a positive, " Allie said. "As a player, it's about versatility. The Pirates made me a first baseman, a right fielder, a left fielder. The more positions I can play, the more valuable I become."
He certainly doesn't see not sticking at one position as a sign of failure, either.
"People from the outside probably think, ‘Hey, he's switching positions -- it probably means he wasn't a good first baseman,' or this or that, but that's not necessarily true," Allie said. "I think it is for value. I think guys that can play multiple positions, look at Josh Harrison, [bring value]. It helps everyone out."
After playing in the Mexican Pacific Winter League (where he said games take four hours to play) after last season, Allie was assigned back to Altoona after Spring Training and told he'd be transitioning to right field.
"I've never played [right field] before in my life, [but I] really haven't had a problem," he said. "The hardest part is righties with the fade line drive down the line. Other than that, I've got plenty of speed for my size to track down balls in the gap. And, for me, I love using my arm. I get a chance to use my arm more often."
Allie described how he will occasionally lolly-pop the ball back to the infield after a single in the hopes of giving the impression of being a poor thrower. His goal is lure baserunners into false sense of confidence.
Speaking of his arm, Allie thinks he can still throw the ball with triple-digit velocity.
"I probably could, to be honest. I feel like my arm's gotten stronger. Healthier for sure. I haven't had any shoulder problems. And with the throwing program we do and long toss I feel like if I had to, I could. It's still there."
Besides throwing out baserunners, Allie said that best part of playing right field is making a big diving catch to rescue the pitcher.
"I've made diving plays and that's a thrill and pretty fun. To see the pitcher tip his cap to you is pretty cool."
Allie grew up a baseball rat. As far back as he can remember his dad coached baseball and he spent time at the field getting to know ballplayers.
"When I was a little kid, he coached at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando," Allie said. "He coached Johnny Damon, A.J. Pierzynski, so I've been around baseball my whole life. They kind of mentored me a little bit. I know Johnny pretty well. Those are the guys I've wanted to be like, and have a career like those guys."
His dad now owns an indoor baseball training facility in Florida.
"It's a win-win for me. I get to work out for free in the offseason."
Much was made of Allie's maturity level in the two years immediately after he was drafted, and a lot of it came from Allie himself. When you look back at some of his interviews since 2013, it is a theme that he brought up often. As we discussed the topic again today, it became clear that if he has any regrets about his professional career thus far, it's that he didn't take it seriously enough soon enough.
"The biggest thing I learned in maturing in this game is that it's a man's game," Allie said. "When I got drafted I was very immature not only on the field, by not focusing on little details and getting my work done the right way both on and off the field. It's one of those things when you first get signed you're like, ‘All right, I was a high-round pick. I'm going to be able to do this.' But at the end of the day, you've got to put the work in, you got to really focus and you got to really still have that dream of getting there. Because, you know, talent is only going to take you so far. You got to have that work ethic to stay healthy, to get through the grind of a long season."
Allie says that he doesn't think too much about getting called up to Indianapolis this season because it is largely out of his control.
Many see reducing his strikeout rate as essential for Allie taking the next step forward in his career. However, he doesn't view that as the major issue.
"Strikeouts are going to happen, as long as the power and production is there, I'll be happy," he said.
The bigger issue, he explains, is continuing to simplify his swing so that he can put together consistent at bats. However, when he talks about achieving a consistently simplified swing, that word maturity pops up again.
"There are days where I'm like, screw it, I'm going to try to hit home runs," Allie said. "That's the immaturity during the game, which I'd like to limit more and more. But at the end of the day, I've had a lot of games where I haven't got hits but I've absolutely hit the crap out of the ball. And if I was a result oriented guy, I'd be pretty mad. But the Pirates aren't looking at that. If I'm squaring balls up, it's [better] than just being a guy that is getting hits but not driving the ball."
Allie hasn't been in the lineup the last two nights, but hopefully I'll get a look at him in right field tomorrow night.
On the season, Allie is hitting .210/.269/.412. He has struck out 38 times in 130 plate appearances.