Every Friday I will be taking a look at a prospect in the lower levels of the minors who is a strong candidate to move toward the top of prospect lists, if they are not already near the top. I had planned on writing about Rangers OF prospect Lewis Brinson, but it turns out that I had apparently forgotten that Craig Goldstein had written about him three weeks ago. As a result, I'll move down to the next player requested, who is a very interesting conversion project in Stetson Allie of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Converting prospects to or from anything can be extremely interesting, but many are borne of a specific set of failures. Whether they are in-game or just anticipated failures, players like Kenley Jansen and Rick Ankiel are where they in largely in part due to the fact that they were tried as something else, and did not have the Majors in their future as they played at the time.
The Pirates drafted Stetson Allie in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, as he was another player who fell due to signability concerns. Viewed as a two-way player in high school, the Pirates wanted him to pitch, and was thought very highly of by the industry as a prospect. Baseball Prospectus ranked Allie as the #38 overall prospect coming into the 2011 season, and there were multiple reports that Allie's raw arm strength was even better than #2 overall pick Jameson Taillon. However, Allie had not pitched much in high school, and was extremely raw as a result.
Since Allie was so raw as a pitcher, the Pirates sent him to extended spring training to start the 2011 season, and then sent him to their Short-Season affiliate in State College. He made 15 appearances that year (7 starts), posting a 6.58 ERA, allowing 20 hits, 20 earned runs, 29 walks and posting 28 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched. The Pirates promoted him to full season Low-A in West Virginia to start the 2012 season, and it would be an understatement to say it went badly. After two appearances (one start), Allie was sent back to extended spring training, but not before recording just two outs, allowing a hit, walking 8, and striking out 1 batter. When the short-season Gulf Coast League started up in June, the Pirates sent Allie there, with the sole intent of conversion to a hitter, primarily a third baseman. In 150 at bats, he hit .213/.314/.340 with 3 home runs, 19 runs batted in, and 2 stolen bases. Sent back to full season Low-A to start 2013, Allie has been tearing up the Sally League so far, hitting .356/.435/.658 with 6 home runs, 20 runs batted in, and 4 stolen bases.
Looking at Allie as a hitter, there is a lot of power potential there. He already has 6 home runs, and after watching some of his performance on MILB.tv and on Youtube, the power appears real. As with any statistics at this point in the season, the caveat of a small sample size holds true. That said, he has shown solid plate discipline so far, posting a 12% walk rate, but has also shown the proclivity to strikeout (26%) that you would expect from a power hitter. Both of these numbers are in line with the performance at rookie ball in 2012, so it could be telling us something. There are obviously questions about whether he will be able to hit enough as a prospect, but it's been very promising so far.
The key to his value (for me anyway) is what positional value he can add to his bat. He has played exclusively first base so far this year, but he played third last year, and if he can end up back over there as he moves up toward the Majors, his overall prospect value will jump drastically. He is going to have his ups and downs, simply because he hasn't had nearly as many reps as other players his age. That said, he is worth watching to see whether he can hit enough to show the power on a consistent basis as he moves up, and whether the Pirates will get a good return on the $2.5 million they invested in Allie back in 2010.