Name: Chad Pinder
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 195
How Acquired: Selected the Competitive Balance Round B in 2013
Chad Pinder had a breakout 2015 season that saw him zoom up prospect charts. Pinder’s 2016 season wasn’t quite as smooth, but he still finished the year in the big leagues. Can Pinder earn a longer look with the A’s in 2017?
In 2015, it seemed that everything Pinder touched turned to gold. Despite making a position switch from second base to shortstop, Pinder didn’t miss a step at the plate with the Double-A Midland RockHounds. He put together a career-best season, slashing .317/.361/.486 with 15 homeruns in 117 games for Midland and took home the league’s Top Player award. Pinder then put together a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League.Pinder’s 2016 season led to a non-roster invitation to big league camp in 2016. He had a solid spring, launching two homers in 25 at-bats. That momentum didn’t carry over into the regular season, however. Pinder got off to a slow start with Triple-A Nashville, hitting only .238 with a 616 OPS.
After not struggling at all in 2015, Pinder had to make several adjustments after his slow start in 2016. According to Nashville hitting coach Eric Martins, Pinder had to change how he approached his at-bats to account for how pitchers were attacking him. Martins said pitchers threw Pinder a lot more off-speed pitches in hitter’s counts and Pinder had to learn to look for different pitches in those situations. In addition, Pinder had to deal with an early-season fielding slump. He had trouble, in particular, with his throws from short and he had to take some focus away from his hitting to get his defensive game back on track.
Chad Pinder Stats
Eventually, Pinder found his way with the Sounds. He hit .280 with a 776 OPS in May and followed that with an 818 OPS in June. Pinder landed a spot on the mid-season Pacific Coast League All-Star team and headed into the break with a 730 OPS and 10 homeruns in 80 games. He would play only 27 games after the break, as he earned a call-up to Oakland on August 17. Pinder would finish the year with solid, but not spectacular numbers, posting a .258/.310/.425 line in 107 games with the Sounds.
Pinder, like most young players, didn’t receive regular playing time after reaching the big leagues with the A’s. He appeared in only six games in August and finished with only 51 at-bats in six weeks in the big leagues. Pinder started off slowly at the plate with the A’s, but he started to warm up as the season wound down. Over his final 20 at-bats, Pinder hit .350/.435/.650.
Defensively, it was a learning year for Pinder. He played shortstop almost exclusively for Nashville and committed 29 errors in 98 games. More of those errors came early in the season, but Pinder did struggle with consistency at short for much of the year. He played more second base than shortstop in the big leagues, and he committed three errors in 13 games at that position. Pinder didn’t commit an error in seven games at short.
“Defensively, he had his ups and downs, but he has shown throughout his minor league career the ability to play at all three infield positions,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. “He’s kind of like a young Marcus Semien. He’s shown the attributes to be able to play in the infield and he’s kept on working to get better. Where he lands permanently defensively is yet to be determined, but he’s made himself a viable major league player, for sure.”
Like Semien, Pinder is a tall, lanky middle infielder with above-average power for a middle infielder and some running ability. Pinder has a strong arm and good hands, but he has moved all around the infield since his college days and it isn’t yet obvious which of the three infield positions suits him best. He has the arm to play short and third, but his range is a bit more limited at those positions. Pinder learned how to play second base on the fly in 2014 and hasn’t had a lot of time at the position since then, but that might be his best position moving forward. Whether he gets significant time there with Jed Lowrie and Joey Wendle ahead of him at second remains to be seen.
As a hitter, Pinder has a pretty right-handed swing that generates plenty of top spin. He uses the whole field well but gets most of his power to the pull-side. Pinder is a free swinger. He has done a better job of being patient early in counts over the past two seasons, but he isn’t likely ever to rack up a lot of walks. He hits fastballs very well and is dangerous when ahead in the count. Once on the bases, Pinder doesn’t look to steal a lot of bases, but he is an above-average runner and is able to take extra bases on balls in play. He has also hit lefties better than righties, although he has held his own against right-handed pitching during his career. Pinder has struggled to stay healthy at times in the past, but last season he was healthy all year and played in a career-high 129 games.
Martins was pleased with how Pinder handled the ups-and-downs of his 2016 season and believes Pinder has set a good foundation for 2017.
“All said and done, I think that Chad made some huge strides this year. He started off a little slowly. He was being pitched to differently. We made some adjustments with him physically with his mechanics that helped him. He was able to get back and he had that good June when he went off at the plate and got back to being Chad Pinder,” Martins said. “He’s just a grinder. He’s a good baseball player. He has the ability to drive balls to all parts of the field. He’s strong. He’s really in-tune with what is going on and what the pitcher is trying to do to him now.”
It remains to be seen how the A’s handle their infield rotation this season. With veterans Semien, Lowrie and Adam Rosales slated to get the bulk of the playing time up-the-middle early in the year, Pinder figures to start the 2017 season in Triple-A. Where Pinder plays defensively in Nashville also remains to be seen, as he will be joined on the Sounds’ roster by top prospect Franklin Barreto. Pinder could play more of a utility role with the Sounds rather than suiting up at shortstop every day. That role should prepare him well how he might be used the next time he reaches the big leagues.
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