What does Mets prospect Matt Allan's future hold after third elbow surgery? A sports surgeon weighs in




Mets pitching prospect Matt Allan
Mets pitching prospect Matt Allan  

The news appeared in inboxes early Saturday afternoon via a short release from the Mets. Pitching prospect Matt Allan had undergone UCL revision surgery in January -- basically, he had a second Tommy John surgery.

It was an unwanted bolt from the blue, coming right before Allan had been expected to report to spring training and begin the process of rebuilding his prospect status while perhaps putting himself in the big league plans for 2024 or 2025 after losing three years of development to a global pandemic and two elbow surgeries.

Instead, Allan -- who is still just 21 years old -- will go back to square one as he misses the entire 2023 season while recovering from yet another surgery.

This is a cruel blow for a pitcher the Mets selected in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft, having him fall to them at that spot only because of signability concerns.

After being drafted, Allan was viewed as the Mets' best pitching prospect and someone who could possibly be a top of the rotation starter in a few years. Instead, he has been bitten by the injury bug repeatedly.

His latest surgery follows the ulnar nerve transposition surgery Allan had in January of 2022 and the initial Tommy John surgery he underwent in May of 2021.

Ulnar nerve transposition surgery is common for pitchers who have had Tommy John, and is usually relatively minor. For example, Jacob deGrom had transposition surgery in September of 2016.

But a second Tommy John surgery is a different story.

To get a read on what Allan's latest setback could mean for his future, we spoke with Deepak Chona, MD, founder of SportsMedAnalytics and a Stanford and Harvard-trained orthopedic sports surgeon who does not personally treat Allan.

"Performance outcomes from repeat [Tommy John] procedures aren't quite as good as the first ones, but many players still have solid post-injury careers," Chona explained. "Approximately 80 percent of professional pitchers are able return to baseball and do so at an average of 12 months post-surgery. Approximately 65 percent are able to make it back to the same level of competition, and do so at an average of 15 months post-surgery."

Before Allan suffered his injuries, here's what his stuff was like, via SNY contributor Joe DeMayo:

"He had an above-average fastball that would sit around 93-95 mph, while touching 97. His curveball was his best secondary pitch, which he located well and frequently used to get swings-and-misses. Prior to his injuries he was working extremely hard on his changeup."

How might that stuff play if/when Allan makes it back from his latest surgery?

"MLB data is pretty convincing that pitchers regain their full pre-injury fastball velocity and curveball movement, but there is some data to suggest that fastball accuracy decreases after the procedure," Chona said. "Additionally, pitchers who have undergone the Tommy John procedure twice tend to use their fastball less after return. It's impossible to know if this is related to confidence in the pitch or a physical limitation, but that is the trend we've seen so far.

"Overall, Allan can certainly have the same career trajectory he was headed towards before this injury, but the odds of stardom are a little less likely."

With Allan out until 2024, his big league ETA will possibly get pushed back to 2026. That means two of the Mets' other potentially high-impact pitching prospects -- Blade Tidwell (ETA of 2024) and Calvin Ziegler (2025) -- will likely debut before him.

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