Stetson Allie Has Come Full Circle, and at Age 30, He Looks Legit

Stetson Allie was undergoing a transformation when he was first featured here at FanGraphs in April 2013. A second-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates three years earlier, the burly right-hander was being converting from a pitcher to a position player. Initially, that went well. Allie raked in A-ball, prompting us to feature him again, this time in interview form, in February 2014. As noted in the introduction, he’d morphed into “a corner infielder with plus raw power and a lot of swing-and-miss.”

The pendulum wasn’t done swinging. Much as Allie’s high-octane fastball had been erratic, his ability to make consistent contact was found wanting as he climbed the minor-league ladder. Midway through the 2017 season, Allie — by then in the Los Angeles Dodgers system — was moved back to the mound.

Fast forward to the present day, and Allie is in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays, looking every bit like a viable arm out of a big-league bullpen. In five spring-training appearances, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound flamethrower has tossed five hitless innings, with six punch-outs. The only blemish on his stat line is five free passes.

This past Sunday, I caught up to the revitalized righty to address the atypical path he’s taken to the doorstep of the majors. How would be describe his journey thus far?

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster,” responded Allie, who inked a minor-league deal with the Rays in February. “And it’s really weird, because I just had my 30th birthday yesterday. I was like, ‘I can’t believe I was drafted at 19 years old, and now I’m 30 and still playing the game. Wow.’”

When we spoke in 2014, Allie allowed that his biggest problem to date had been between the ears. In his own words, he was “immature on the field and off the field.” Moreover, he “never knew anything about pitching.” All he did was light up radar guns — Allie would touch triple digits — but again, his command was sorely lacking. Moving off the mound made sense, but it didn’t exorcise the demons. Dark clouds continued to haunt his psyche, each slump causing him to put more pressure on himself.

“I had a hard time with the Pirates, mentally,” Allie admitted. “When I was younger, I felt like baseball was the only thing in life that I was good at. I felt that I needed to succeed at baseball, but in reality, baseball is just a game. I’ve played it since I was a kid, and I love it, but there’s so much more to life. Once I grasped that aspect, it kind of freed me up to succeed.”

That feeling began to manifest itself after Allie was picked up by the Dodgers prior to the 2017 season — “it was a fresh start for me” — and subsequently returned to the mound midway through that summer. When the suggestion was made, he jumped in head first.

“I was a right fielder with the Dodgers [Double-A affiliate], but not really playing that much,” recalled Allie. “They were like, ‘Hey, man, I think your ticket to the big leagues is getting back on the bump.’ There was no pushback in my head. I was like, ‘You know what? I couldn’t agree more with y’all’. I accepted the challenge. I went back to the [rookie-level] AZL and hit the ground running.”

Before long, Allie was once again running his fastball up there at high velocities. He’s continued to do so, albeit — until recently — as more of a thrower than a pitcher. In 2019, he fanned 40 batters in 32 Triple-A innings, but also walked 31. Then came 2020. Allie signed with the Red Sox and began develop a spiked slider, and while COVID-19 ultimately squelched his season, he continued to hone the pitch while training on his own in Jacksonville. From there, Allie went to Arizona and met up with a couple of old friends from his time in the Pirates system.

“When I was a pitcher before — and this is the immaturity part — I was very stubborn,” said Allie. “I wanted to throw 100; I wanted to throw it by you. That doesn’t work in pro ball. These guys can time velocity. Finally, this offseason I worked out with Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, and it was, ‘Hey man, it’s not a talent issue, we’ve just got to work on this off-speed.’ That’s what the Rays want from me, to be able to throw sliders for strikes. I don’t know if you’ve been watching this spring, but I’m a heavy slider guy now.”

More specifically, he’s a heavy slider guy with a high-90s fastball that spins “between 2700 and 2800 rpm and gets 20 to 23 inches of ride.”

Kevin Cash didn’t know Allie from Adam prior to the start of spring training.

“I did not,” the Tampa Bay manager admitted when asked if he’d been familiar with Allie. “I believe the story — if I’ve heard it correctly — is that he was working out with Tyler in the offseason, in Arizona. It was a group of guys that throw bullpens there, and it’s pretty easy to stand behind the catcher when [Allie] is throwing and be wowed by the stuff. Tyler probably called somebody and kind of pounded the table on this guy, ‘Maybe we should bring him in for an invite or something; he’s got a chance to put it all together.” So Tyler is not only going to pitch on Opening Day for us, he’s also one of our scouts.”

Is the late-blooming pitcher that Glasnow “discovered” a legitimate contender to eventually earn a spot on a big-league roster?

“He’s pretty legit,” said Cash. “He just needs to get the ball in the zone as much as possible. If we can get his strike-zone-percentage rate up, we feel like he falls right in line with some of the elite fastball slider/combinations among right-handed throwers.”

Atlanta Braves batters saw Allie’s two-pitch arsenal at its best a few hours prior to me talking to him for this story. The outing was an eye-opener. Falling just short of an immaculate inning, he punched out Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, then got Travis d’Arnaud to ground out. I suggested to the recently-hitched hurler — Allie got married over the offseason — that he must be in a good mood.

“I’m in a good mood every day,” replied Allie. “I’m playing the game that I love at 30 years old. I’m just a happy guy. Life is good.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

Pirates fan here. Allie seemed to be a ‘head case’ when he was with the Pirates. He was a very dangerous pitcher. He was so erratic and threw his fastball at such a velocity that he might have killed someone if he had hit that batter on the head. Outside observers noted this at the time. The reason for considering him a head case: He wanted to hit. The Pirates gave him $2M to pitch. So, they moved him to the field despite their investment in him as a pitcher. He was not a first or second round (over slot bonus) talent when considered as a position player. Observers stated that he might have been a fourth or fifth round talent. His best bet to succeed is the path he is on now.

The Fog of Baseball. Que sera…..

1 year ago
Reply to  szielinski

A’s gonna double switch with him and McKay. I kid..I think.

Pirates Hurdlesmember
1 year ago
Reply to  szielinski

I’d love to see this turn into a feel good story, but I’m awfully skeptical. He not only walks people, but he also grooves pitches down the middle that get clobbered. I’m curious to see what happens.