Pirates converting a pitching prospect to an everyday player

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The Pirates’ 2010 second round draft pick is a guy named Stetson Allie.  He’s a pitcher with 100 m.p.h. gas who has a bit of a control problem. And by “a bit” I mean “a massive, horrible control problem.” So the Pirates are trying something:

The Pirates are converting high-priced prospect Stetson Allie from pitcher to hitter, the Tribune-Review has learned … Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager, said the change was made “recently.” No new position was specified, but Allie played third base in high school.

“Stetson was one of the few athletes in each draft to be considered a prospect as a pitcher and as a hitter,” Huntington said Sunday night from Bradenton, Fla. “We believed his highest upside was as a pitcher. We obviously were very pleased to sign him as a pitcher. Since then, we’ve faced some challenges with him as a pitcher.”

Challenges defined: Last season, in 26 innings, he walked 29 and gave up another 20 hits. He also struck out 28 guys in those 26 innings.  In two-thirds of an inning this season, across two games, Allie walked eight dudes. He has been shut down for over a month as a result, with the Pirates trying to remake his delivery. That’s apparently not working, thus the change.

When I think about prospect conversion projects I can’t help but think of another Pirate: John Van Benschoten, who the Pirates drafted in the first round in 2001.  He was an incredible power hitting prospect, leading all of college baseball in home runs during his final year at Kent State. He was also the team’s closer, and the Pirates figured that they’d make him a pitcher in their system. From what I remember at the time, no other team pictured him as a pitcher and if he had fallen below the eighth overall pick that year, someone would have snagged him as an outfielder.

Van Benschoten made the bigs as a pitcher, but probably wouldn’t have in any other organization. He was a disaster in his time in the majors and his career fizzled out due to torn labrums and other such nastiness. In what seemed like a taunt from some alternate universe, Van Benschoten hit a home run in his second big league game.

These are obviously different circumstances. The Pirates organization of 2012 is not the Pirates organization of 2001.  And, unlike, Van Benschoten, Allie was given a chance to do what folks expected him to do before failing and, eventually, conversion. But even if this is the right move, it solidifies the Pirates in my mind as The Team That Converts Early Round Prospects.  And that’s not something you hear about too often.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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