By now, the Stetson Allie story is well known. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of a Cleveland-area high school in 2010, the big right-hander had a 100-mph fastball and little idea where it was going. Less than 30 innings into his professional career, his pitching days were over. He became a corner infielder with plus raw power and a lot of swing-and-miss.
Allie’s story remains mostly unwritten. Still just 22 years old, he is coming off a Jekyll-and-Hyde first full season as a position player. In 66 games at low-A West Virginia, he hit a loud .324/.414/.607, with 17 home runs. In the same number of games at high-A Bradenton, he hit .229/.342/.356, with 4 home runs.
There is no doubting Allie’s potential as a hitter. There is even less doubt about his comfort zone. A fish-out-of-water on the mound, he feels right at home in the batter’s box. Allie revisited his work-in-progress transition, including why he struggled as a pitcher, earlier this week.
Allie on his background and maturity level: “I’ve always been blessed to have my dad’s indoor baseball facility where I could take ground balls and hit. He had a facility in Florida and when I moved to Ohio for high school he had one there. So I never had a problem with being from Ohio. I was working out just as much, if not more, than guys growing up down south. I was just doing it inside. My biggest problem was immaturity.
“I was immature on the field and off the field. When I signed, I was a guy who thought he had the world by the balls. I thought I knew some things I didn’t. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve become a lot more mature and a lot more ‘This is my job and this is what I have to do to be ready.’ I realize I need to focus more. Going through those hard times was a good learning experience.”
On failing as a pitcher: “I don’t like people saying [I failed as a pitcher]. I was young. Where I was at mentally is what messed me up. I feel I could go out on the mound now and be way better, because I’d be mentally in it. I had the talent, it’s just that my values were all off. To try to play this game, at this level, and be immature just doesn’t work.
“As a pitcher I had all this free time and that free time wasn’t good for me. When I switched to being a hitter, it was a new day every day. That really helped me out. I’m a guy who is high energy and hates to sit around. When I sat around, I would do things I shouldn’t be doing. Growing up, I always needed to be doing something.
“When I was younger, I never knew anything about pitching. I think a lot of people don’t understand that. When I was in high school, I just threw hard. I never had pitching lessons or whatnot. I had my dad’s facility, but he has always been a hitting coach. When I’d go to showcases, I was a third baseman and a first baseman, and it was kind of a light-up-the-radar-gun type of deal. In pro ball, that doesn’t work. You have to throw strikes and have good mechanics.
“The most success I’ve had as a pitcher has been as a one-inning guy. I just went up on the mound and was athletic. Instead of thinking about my mechanics, I just threw the ball. That success wasn’t in [State College or West Virginia]. It was when I came back here [to Bradenton for extended spring training in 2012]. I was a one-inning guy staying athletic and just doing my thing. I had success doing that, but for me, and the Pirates, being a hitter is more suited for who I am.”
On his comfort zone: “A big reason I had success as a hitter last year is my work ethic. I wanted to keep hitting. I wanted to hit off the tee, I wanted to hit in the cage, I wanted to take ground balls. I wanted to do extra. As a pitcher, you just throw.
“When I signed, I had more confidence as a hitter. I know my swing, because I’ve hit my whole life. I only pitched my senior year of high school. I know when my swing is on and when it’s off. I know how to critique it and I know who to call. I feel I was always a lot more ahead of the game as a hitter, so when they told me I was going to hit, I ran with it. I’m more comfortable hitting than I ever was pitching.”
On his hitting approach and his future: “I like to keep it simple. My power is to the middle and to right field. I’m not a guy who likes to pull the ball, so I always look middle to middle away. I look for a fastball to drive and adjust to a breaking ball. I’ve found I have the most success when I stick with something easy. The simpler my approach, the better.
“I got away from my approach at times last year. I started trying to pull the ball over the left field fence. I struggled. That’s something I had to learn from. When I stick to my approach, the sky is the limit.
“I think I could [go back to pitching], but I honestly try not to even think about when I was a pitcher. I’m a hitter now and I love it. I literally love hitting.”
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.