Potential, ceiling, flamethrower, "Holy crap he has no idea where his fastball is going." All are words or phrases almost certainly muttered at one time or another regarding my #12 Pirates prospect, Stetson Allie. The 6'2 or 6'4 (depends on the source), 220 lbs right handed pitcher was the Pirates second round pick in 2010. Allie was actually Baseball America's #8 draft prospect but fell due to signability concerns. The Pirates ignored those concerns and took Allie and then paid him 2.25 million dollars to forgo his college commitment to UNC.
Allie, even at the time of the draft, had incredible pure stuff. Baseball America said about Allie, "His pure stuff rivals Jameson Taillon's as the best in this draft." Allie's bread and butter is his fastball, that sat in the mid to high 90's as a high school senior and regularly touched triple digits. He complemented that with a filthy slider that reached the low 90's and has plenty of movement. Allie rarely used his third pitch - a changeup - in high school, so the Pirates would and will need to develop it for him to be a starter. Allie also has no stamina problems, as he has a strong, workhorse frame and during high school his stuff held deep into games. What will hold Allie back, particularly as a starter, is his control and command. Due to his rawness, Allie was certainly a project coming out of high school, but it's hard to find any pitcher at any level of baseball with the pure stuff possessed by Stetson Allie. Allie's 2011 season can be described only as a nightmare. There was a silver lining. Allie was virtually unhittable, especially late in the season. In his last seven appearances spanning 6.2 innings (Allie had been moved to the bullpen by this time), Allie didn't allow a hit. Over the entire season, Allie only allowed 20 hits in 26 innings, a very good number. However, other than that Allie's performance was dismal. He did strikeout 28 batters in 26 innings, but considering Allie's stuff, I would expect more. In addition, Allie managed to walk more batters than he struck out, totaling 30, and that doesn't even include the amount of batters he hit. Simply put, Allie's command and control were horrific.
Now, command and control were supposed to be an issue for Allie. However, walking more than a batter an inning is simply too bad. Even more frightening, Allie didn't experience these command and control issues while throwing in the high 90's. For the sake of his development, the Pirates had Allie tone down his fastball a bit and so instead Allie sat merely in the 93-95 mph range. In a vacuum, that is good velocity, but it's not the 70 or 80 fastball that Allie was lauded for pre-draft. A fastball that sits in the mid 90's can be very effective, but only when it comes with at least good command. Allie is far from having that command and as such, the young pitcher's awful season looks even worse considering he was purposefully dialing down his fastball to "improve" its control and command.
Now there is some good news. Allie still has a devastating arsenal. His fastball and slider cannot be taught, and his changeup showed some promise this year and Allie himself said he liked how it was progressing. Allie stated after his pro debut, “I threw two changeups too that I thought were real good. Fouled the one off, and I got the other guy out in front and missed it. Off-speed was good, just fastball command was an issue in the third inning.” Furthermore, numbers never tell the whole story. Eye-witness reports explain that Allie improvement has improved; for example Tim Williams stated "If you watched Allie throughout the year, you could see the change in his command of the fastball. He went from having zero control of the pitch in Spring Training, to being able to work both sides of the plate in his last outing of the season. He brushed batters off the plate, then immediately went to the outside corner for a strike."
There is no denying Allie's ceiling. Conversely, there is also no denying Allie's high chance to bust. In balancing those two factors, especially the fact that Allie struggled even while not throwing his fastball at max velocity, I cannot rank Allie higher than my #12 prospect.