For today's edition of Minor League Monday we've got another Prospect Interview, with St. Lucie pitcher and Mets top prospect Kyle Allen. Coming into 2010, Allen was very much an up and coming prospect with various analysts predicting a breakout campaign. Toby Hyde ranked Allen as the Mets #13 prospect while both John Sickels and BP's Kevin Goldstein had him in their top ten. However, Allen went on to struggle quite a bit in 2010, having his worst season as a pro. But on the bright side (I guess) he attributed a lot of the struggles to a lingering back problem which he actually shed a lot of light on during our chat.
So listen in as Kyle and I talk about pitching through injury, his interesting repertoire of pitches and why he's so good at keeping the ball on the ground. To listen to the full interview click on the 'Play' button below or click here. Read on past the break for a full transcript of the interview.
Rob: Let me first start by asking about your injury. I think it was a back strain in early August that pretty much ended your season. Is that feeling ok now and is it something you've struggled with before?
Kyle: I had a little back problem at the beginning of the season and we'd just been rehabbing it and stuff and they ended up shutting me down in the beginning of August. But yeah I've been doing really well and hopefully just take it into next season and get stronger.
Rob: Now coming into this year you were picked by a lot of the Mets prospect people as a sleeper who might be able to emerge as a star. Unfortunately it was kind of a tougher year for you; what was the difference would you say between this year and the last couple of years where you were really successful?
Kyle: This year it was just earlier in the season -- like I said before -- this back injury...I didn't think it was too much, I thought it was a muscle I kept trying to pitch through. But I wasn't able to get over my front leg with it. So I was kind of leaving the ball back and probably losing a little bit of velocity this year
Rob: Oh really? So that back injury was pretty tough to play through then?
Kyle: Yeah, I didn't think it was as bad as it was.
Rob: Well despite a little bit of struggling this year, something you've always been able to do is maintain some really strong ground ball rates. I think this year you allowed six home runs total. So how exactly do you keep the ball on the ground so well?
Kyle: It's all in the finish, it's all about following through and staying over with your front leg when you finish. For the most part I was but the back was lacking me getting over the front foot. I just wasn't trying to let that affect me into the games and that's why I got so far throughout the season.
Rob: You probably already answered this question but your strikeouts were way down this year from last year and the year before. You mentioned that the velocity was down, do you think that was the big reason why?
Kyle: You know I've seen people dicing and striking them out throwing 86-88. I mean it's not too much in the velocity, it's really more keeping the ball down and having all your pitches effectively down in the zone and switching locations and speeds. It has all to do with that. I just think that I was trying to pitch more to contact to get deeper into games because I keep seeing myself come out in the 7th, the 8th; I'm trying to finish the whole nine.I'm just trying to keep my pitches down and attack the hitters, that could be the reason.
Rob: Yeah actually that's a really good strategy because it doesn't help you at all to strike out 10 or 12 guys and come out in the fourth or fifth inning.
Kyle: Either way, strikeout or get a ground ball...when they hit a ground ball I know I'm keeping the ball down, I'm making good pitches when they strike out. My walks have been up this year and I struggled with that. But I'm working on that and trying not to come in next year doing that.
Rob: Getting into your pitches a little bit, scouts have pretty much agreed that your best pitch is probably your change up which is pretty unusual for someone as young as yourself. How did you develop such a strong one and do you agree that it is your best pitch?
Kyle: My change up? Yeah, it's probably my second pitch. I'd go with my fastball, my change up then slider.
Rob: As a 24th round pick do you ever feel a chip on your shoulder to prove yourself a little bit more than some of the upper round players?
Kyle: You know regardless if I went in the top rounds or the later rounds I'm still gonna give my full effort always. I just come out here because I love the game of baseball and I just love playing.
Rob: Can you describe the draft for me? Like what were you doing, had you heard from the Mets beforehand, were you nervous, that sort of stuff.
Kyle: I didn't expect to go as late as I did but that's in the past. They were just talking about my signability cause the agent was throwing big numbers out there and all that but it kind of just came to a conclusion. But I've always liked the Mets. I've loved the Mets even when I was younger because I have family in New York and that's their team is the Mets. So I kind of grew up a little bit a Rays/Braves/Mets fan but the Mets have always been my favorite team.
Rob: Whereabouts in New York?
Rob: What would you say are your biggest strengths and weakness as a pitcher?
Kyle: Uh biggest strengths...umm...probably keeping the ball down. Weaknesses...probably the walks. That was real crucial to my year this year, the walks.
Rob: What would you say is the biggest difference between pitching at St. Lucie and pitching at Savannah where you pitched last season?
Kyle: They're more disciplined here. They have a better eye for the strike zone and pitches that usually are in pitchers situations they don't swing as much as in Savannah.
Rob: I'm gonna turn the page back a little bit and ask what was baseball like for you as a kid when you were growing up?
Kyle: I've always loved the game. I grew up living with my mom -- mom's a school teacher -- and she came to the field all the time. And I'd practice on my own even if she wasn't there cause the baseball field that I played on when I was younger was located in my neighborhood. So I grew up playing there. High school went really well, ended up finishing my senior year at IMG [Baseball Academy], the most amazing school I've ever been to. They're just all focused on athletics and education so you can get a lot of work in on both parts and they make it easy for you.
Rob: Wow that sounds like a good situation. Now where is that again?
Kyle: It's in Bradenton, Florida. IMG.
Rob: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Kyle: Yeah my freshman year I played basketball and I was gonna play football but I had to pick between football and baseball and of course I'm gonna pick baseball.
Rob: I've read that you were born in Portugal; how did that happen?
Kyle: Yeah I was over there when my dad was stationed in Portugal. I lived there until I was around four or five. Then I moved here to Florida when I was four or five years old and I've been living here ever since.
Rob: Interesting, so you're part of a military family. I know there's a few of those in the Mets organization right now including Mike Pelfrey up in the majors.
Rob: I usually like to end these with a few personal questions just to get to know you guys a little better off the field. So #1, what would you say is your favorite TV show?
Kyle: TV show...Breaking Bad.
Rob: What was the last movie you saw and was it any good?
Kyle: Last movie I saw in the movie theater was the new Predator movie. It was Ok, it was all pretty much the same stuff as the old ones.
Rob: If I turned on your iPod right now what would be playing?
Kyle: Either Rick Ross or Gucci Mane.
Rob: Ok last one, who was your favorite ballplayer growing up?
Kyle: I'd probably have to say...Alex Rodriguez.
Rob: Allright well I appreciate you talking with me today Kyle. Good luck going forward and definitely good luck staying healthy, I'll try to keep in touch as you climb through the system. Thanks.