The Situation: The A’s are not a good baseball team. When you’re not good, you often get a good look at young prospects. Chad Pinder is a young(ish) prospect. He’s going to play for the A’s now.
Background: Pinder came to Virginia Tech without much fanfare—he went undrafted his senior year of high school—but he was an immediate contributor for the Hokies, ranking among the league leaders in several categories in the ACC. After hitting .321/.404/.483 in his junior campaign, there was talk of being a day-one draft pick, and Oakland snatched him up in the second-round of the 2013 draft. He struggled in his first professional taste to the tune of a .579 OPS, but Oakland was so confident in his abilities that they had him skip Low-A entirely. He rewarded their confidence with a .288/.336/.489 line in the California League, and he followed that up with an .847 OPS in Double-A Midland the next year. He wasn’t nearly as good this year in Triple-A Nashville, but he does have 40 extra-base hits, and at 24 years of age, it’s time to see what exactly the Athletics have.
Scouting Report: Pinder has excellent hand-eye coordination, and while there is some swing-and-miss in his game, that’s more due to the length of his swing than pitch recognition. He makes plenty of contact, and there’s enough hard contact to project an average hit tool. The aforementioned length in his swing also gives Pinder more power than your typical middle infielder, and his natural loft and strong wrists give him solid-average power potential. It’s mostly to the pull-side, but there’s enough strength for him to put the ball into the opposite-field gap. He’s an extremely aggressive hitter—he’s never walked more than 28 times in a season—and pitchers will likely try to exploit his lack of patience early and often.
It has long been assumed that Pinder would have to move over to third or second base at some point, but that point isn’t now. Despite possessing only fringe-average speed, he holds his own at shortstop because his instincts in the field are solid, and he compensates for the lack of speed with a strong, accurate throwing arm. He’s played plenty of of second and third in his life, and that versatility is arguably his strongest feature.
Immediate Big League Future: In an ideal world, Pinder comes up and provides good enough defense at three positions with above-average offensive production from a utility player. I don’t know if that’s the way the A’s plan to use him, but it’s the plan that makes the most sense to me. If he is coming up to be an everyday player, he’s going to have to show more patience, as there’s just not enough in the hit or power tool to suggest he can be an everyday guy without it. The defense should be fine wherever they put him, but he makes a heck of a lot more sense as a utility man than everyday guy up the middle. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: Possessing a profile that harkens back to the mid-90’s and early-00’s era filled with defensively challenged, low on-base percentage, slugging middle infielders, the 24-year-old shortstop is hitting .258/.310/.425 with 40 extra-base hits and five stolen bases in 107 games at Triple-A Nashville. To put those numbers in context, Pinder leads all Pacific Coast middle infielders (unless you count the Padres versatile Ryan Schimpf) with 14 home runs this season.
With Jed Lowrie hitting the disabled list, he should absorb the bulk of the playing time at the keystone over the final six weeks of the year and his over the fence power gives him immediate value in AL-only formats. Long-term, the Virginia Tech product profiles as a utility infielder capable of filling in at various spots defensively and providing at the very least some extra-base pop. It’s not a terribly exciting profile fantasy-wise at the moment, but the profile is worth monitoring. As we’ve seen with prominent examples like Trevor Story and Jonathan Schoop in recent years, it’s one that can become immensely value for fantasy purposes at a middle infield spot rather quickly. —George Bissell
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