“Hitting is Timing. Pitching is disrupting timing.”
For most Blue Jays fans, Dunedin LHP Nick Allgeyer has toiled mostly in anonymity.
After a strong debut pro season with Vancouver last year following being selected in the 12th round from Iowa, Allgeyer has been lights out in the streaming black hole that is the Florida State League.
If he continues to pitch as well he has through his first half dozen starts for the D-Jays (1.36 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .188 OppBA), fans will get to see more of him and quickly get to know his name. That he played high school hockey in his native St Louis, and briefly considered pursuing a junior career will only endear him to Blue Jays fans.
Players chosen on day two of the MLB draft, unlike the top ten rounders selected the previous day, are not regarded as mostly safe bets. The talent level between the two days may not be significant, but generally speaking the players taken on the second day have seen their stock fall for one reason or another. Sometimes, in the case of college players, it’s the misfortune of having a sub-par draft year compared to their first college campaigns. In Allgeyer’s situation, spending his first two college seasons as a reliever and then missing his junior season may have caused him to slip to day two. At the same time, he became Iowa’s Friday starter in his redshirt junior year, and worked six or more innings in each of his last 14 starts for the Hawkeyes. With stuff that Baseball America said was “not exceptional,” he may have slid as well, but the last line in their draft report may have given a glimpse of things to come:
The athletic Allgeyer (he was a Wide Receiver in high school football as well – his father, Ken was a lineman for Iowa) is a serious golfer, in addition to his skills on the ice. As a midwest guy, he would not have minded the cool spring weather of the Midwest League, but he’s happy that he skipped Lansing for Dunedin just the same:
It’s definitely better here in Dunedin than in Lansing (weather-wise), but I’m just grateful to have skipped a level. It’s not something that happens all the time, and I’m just trying to make the best of this opportunity.
Fastball command is stressed throughout all MLB systems, the Blue Jays especially so. For Allgeyer, the importance of it was a lesson ago long drilled into him:
That’s a big thing that was preached in college….try to limit the free bases. You can’t eliminate them because it’s a part of the game, but try to limit them as much as you can, and I think that’s been a big help, especially with the help I’ve had from my Catchers, like Chris (Bec, who caught him in Vancouver last year, and Dunedin this season), and Riley (Adams, recently promoted to AA), and (Alejandro) Kirky (just up from Lansing). They’ve all been calling good games, and have been very trustworthy.
Allgeyer works quickly, and in many ways is similar to fellow southpaw Zach Logue, who has reached AA in only his third pro season – both pitch to contact, and are usually around the plate. His 21.1% K-BB ratio is 3rd best in the system, and he’s walked only 4 hitters in 32.2 innings this season. When asked about what his secret is to getting hitters out, Allgeyer spreads the credit around, and says there’s not a lot of mystery to it:
I don’t know if there’s much of a secret…..there’s a lot of pitching people who talk about mixing pitches, and throwing strikes, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do….just throw strikes with all of my pitches, and then work with the defence behind me – mine has helped me out a lot, that’s awesome. I’ve had some great D, and the offence has scored some runs while I’ve been pitching, so it’s been a mixture of everything.
Anyone who has played the game for a length of time knows that Pitchers who work quickly and are around the plate tend to be easier to play behind, and Allgeyer is no exception. Not possessed of an overpowering fastball, he relies on command of that pitch and his secondaries (change, curve, and slider) to keep hitters off balance. His fastball can touch 92, but generally sits 89-90, while his change and slider clock in at the low 80s, with his curve coming in around the mid 70s. Like many pitchers of his crafty type, everything comes off the fastball for Allgeyer:
You have to be able to command your fastball to both sides of the plate, then everything else falls into place. If you can to that, it’s a good start……..I don’t really rely on any one pitch (as much as) I rely on all of them. I try to throw all of them as much as possible, and try to mix in a little bit more than half fastballs, but I’m trying to throw any pitch in any count…..whatever I can do to keep hitters off balance. My command isn’t big league (yet), so most of the time I’m trying to throw to the sides of the plate. You think up and down, but when it comes crunch time, you’re trying to get inside or outside depending on the hitter – whether he’s a slap hitter, power hitter.
When listening to Allgeyer talk about pitching, and watching video footage of him, Blue Jays fans of a certain vintage may be reminded of a crafty lefty from another era, Jimmy Key. Like Key, Allgeyer relies on location and sequencing of his pitches more than he does his velocity. As an added wrinkle, Allgeyer tries to vary his delivery, and credits a current Blue Jays starter with inspiration in that regard:
One of the big keys to me about Pitching is disrupting timing……I do a couple of different variations with my windup. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly like (Marcus) Stroman, but I’ve learned a lot just from watching him – I watch what he does, and I like how he mixes up the timing of his delivery. I think he really throws off hitters, and that makes his stuff play up.
Longtime Blue Jays minor league Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski has followed Allgeyer from Vancouver to Dunedin, and it’s been a great help to him:
I’ve gotten great scouting reports from all of our coaching staff, and Jim has done a great job with telling me the game plan before we go in, how we want to throw each guy, and how we want to attack them.
It was a very comfortable feeling coming here. I know what I was going to get with Cy, and it was really helpful to me…..it just made the adjustment easier, and I know what to expect every day when I come to the park about what I need to do.
And speaking of Vancouver, no conversation with a player who has had a chance to spend a summer with the C’s is complete without their thoughts:
Vancouver was awesome. It was way more than I could have expected. We had 6400 fans a night, and my host family – the Gustavsons – were fantastic. They showed me around the city, and it was a blast. It was everything I could ask for an more.
I had never been to Canada, but Vancouver had the mountains, the ocean….it was awesome.
During his year recovering from Tommy John, Allgeyer threw himself into his rehab:
That (recovery) was a big thing – you need to get healthy, and all you can do is rehab and recover because you can’t practice or throw. That was my practice, so that’s how I contributed and made myself feel a part of the team.
He focused on increasing his hip mobility, something that several Blue Jays pitching prospects have talked to us about. With the drive generated from the hips during delivery, increasing strength and agility in that area of the body can help take some of the stress off of the arm, and even add some velo. It’s something Allgeyer has to work at, by his own admission:
It (his hip mobility) is not the best by any means, but it’s a daily task that I have to keep grinding away at. I think your hips and thoracic mobility are a big party of staying out there on the mound. I played a lot of hockey growing up, and a big part of being able to push through and develop power skating is to be strong in your legs and hips.
Speaking of hockey, Allgeyer says it’s something he thought about pursuing until baseball became his central focus:
I was a forward, played some centre but mostly on the wings…..there was an opportunity (to play at a higher level) to try to go the junior route in Michigan, but that would’ve meant being away from home and school, and baseball became what it’s all about. I love hockey – it’s one of my favourite sports, and I love watching it, but baseball worked out, and here we are…..
The sight of a 6’3″/200 Allgeyer barreling down on the forecheck would probably be a scary one for most defenders. A lifelong St Louis Blues fan, one could sense the pre-Game 7 nervousness in his voice as we spoke….
As far as goals for the season are concerned, Allgeyer is trying not to look too far down the road:
You can’t look too far ahead, you have to take it day by day…what I’m trying to do is get ready for my next start every 5th day, and give my team a chance to win every time I go out to pitch. That’s the main goal – put up as many 0’s as I can, and when I get into trouble try to limit the damage.
What is Allgeyer’s future with the Blue Jays? At the moment, the Blue Jays may not necessarily have a glut of starting Pitching ahead of him, but there are certainly a number of arms at Buffalo and New Hampshire that may keep him just where he is for at least the next few months. With every outing, though, he’s likely getting more and more attention from the Blue Jays front office. In less than a year, he’s gone from a mid-range draft choice to a player who’s knocking at the back of the Top Prospects door.