Scouts with pro coverage drooled in anticipation of following the progress of the West Virginia Power this season. The Pittsburgh Pirates' Class A club has been loaded with prospects, a list that features outfielders Josh Bell and Barrett Barnes, catcher Wyatt Mathisen and pitchers Clay Holmes and Tyler Glasnow.
The Power roster also includes another familiar name, though many observers entered the season considering Stetson Allie to be more of a curiosity than an everyday player with Major League potential. After all, in 2010 the Pirates had drafted Allie in the second round as a right-handed pitcher and signed to him to an eye-popping $2.25 million bonus. Having accomplished little other than a pile of walks during his stint on the mound, Allie was moving to first base to give hitting a full-time shot.
"It's something I wanted to do and it was something I felt I could do," said Allie, who had committed to play at North Carolina before opting to sign with the Pirates. "I was going to hit in college, so I felt confident I could make the adjustment. So far, I'm having fun while learning more about the job every day."
As a prep start in a suburb of Cleveland, Allie impressed the Pirates with a fastball that flirted with triple digits and a hard slider in the mid-80s. Having signed at the mid-August deadline in 2010, he made his pro debut at State College in the New York-Penn League in 2011 after opening the slate in extended spring training. In 26 innings, he walked 29 batters with 28 strikeouts and posted an 0-2 record with a 6.58 ERA in 15 outings.
In 2012, he reported to West Virginia and worked only one inning in two appearances, allowing a hit and eight walks before going back to extended spring. Frustrated with his lack of progress, Allie started to hit while continuing to work on his pitching during his return to Florida. Shortly thereafter, he met with the Pirates and said he believed his approach to the game was better suited to playing on a daily basis.
"When I had bad days as a pitcher, I carried it with me for the rest of the week," Allie said. "As a position player, I can have a bad at-bat and I'm over it pretty fast because I have a job to do, instead of sitting around and being mad. I feel more laid back and I'm having fun again."
Selected earlier this week to play in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, Allie has been the circuit's most dominant force since Opening Day. Through June 4, he led the loop with 16 home runs, 54 RBIs and 136 total bases. He was tied for first with 72 hits, tied for second with 31 extra-base hits and ranked second with a .633 slugging percentage and sixth with a .335 batting average.
As with any player, Allie has parts of his game that need work. He had 68 strikeouts in his initial 215 at-bats, though he has made remarkable progress in his ability to use the entire field after trying to pull most pitches in high school. His defense at first base is also raw, both in digging balls and making accurate throws. Nevertheless, Allie is trending in the right direction with his conversion and appears to have the makings of a classic power-hitting first baseman.
"His work ethic has been outstanding," said West Virginia manager Michael Ryan. "He's a driven young man and extremely competitive. He's a quick learner, and he puts the things he learns to use right away. Based on everything he's shown us so far this year, he has a chance to have a lot of success in this game."
Nice start: Frank Lopez held Lakewood hitless over five innings before surrendering a one-out double in the sixth in his debut with Hickory on June 4. The left-hander guided the Crawdads to the 4-1 victory, allowing one unearned run and striking out six in his first appearance since being promoted from extended spring training. Lopez, signed by the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2010, combined with two other Hickory hurlers to limit the BlueClaws to two hits.
Six All-Stars apiece: SAL president Eric Krupa announced the All-Star rosters for the league's annual midseason contest, slated for Tuesday, June 18, at Lakewood. Augusta led all Southern Division teams with six players, while Hickory, West Virginia and Hagerstown each placed six on the Northern Division roster.
Enns on the rise: Dietrich Enns, a 19th-round pick in 2012 out of Central Michigan, has been dominant out of the RiverDogs bullpen. Possessing a nasty repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, a hard slider and a solid changeup, Enns has 58 strikeouts in his first 35 1/3 innings while posting a 4-0 record and a 0.76 ERA. He is limiting opposing hitters to a .164 average.