Name: Chad Pinder
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 195
How Acquired: Selected with a competitive balance round pick by the A’s in 2013
Chad Pinder’s first professional season didn’t go the way he or the Oakland A’s would have liked it to go, but he more than made up for that during his encore campaign in 2014. With the trades of top prospects Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson over the past year, Pinder will now have the opportunity to return to his natural shortstop position and could be a factor for the A’s in a year or two.
Pinder came to the A’s in 2013 after an outstanding three-year career at Virginia Tech. During his three season with the Hokies, Pinder hit .322/.389/.509 while seeing time defensively at third base and short. Pinder also performed well during his two summer ball stints. He caught the eye of scouts heading into the 2013 draft after his Cape Cod League summer in 2012, when he had a 1009 OPS.
The A’s selected Pinder with the 71st overall pick in the 2013 draft. A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota expressed some surprise that Pinder was still available at that pick, and the A’s were happy to get him into the fold soon after the draft. Pinder was assigned to the Vermont Lake Monsters after signing. He hit a homer for his first professional hit, but his pro debut season was far from smooth. He battled shoulder soreness and a strained oblique and appeared in just 42 games. Pinder never got into a good rhythm and hit .200/.286/.293.
"He has played a lot of games at second base, but I think he is still very capable of playing shortstop and third base. He has power and can use the whole field. He’s an exciting prospect." - Oakland A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens
That fall, Pinder was healthy enough to participate in the A’s fall Instructional League, and he spent the camp making several adjustments to his hitting mechanics. He looked much more comfortable at the plate the following spring, and the A’s decided to take a risk and jump him up to High-A Stockton despite his struggles in short-season ball.
Pinder rewarded the A’s faith in him immediately. He had a huge April with the Ports, homering seven times and posting a 1018 OPS. Injuries would once again limit Pinder’s playing time, but he finished his first full professional season with a solid .288/.336/.489 line in 96 games. He homered 13 times and collected 32 doubles.
“Pinder started the season off really good and really hot and swinging the bat well,” former A’s minor league hitting coordinator and current A’s assistant coach Marcus Jensen said. “He was able to maintain that, pretty much, throughout the course of the season. He was set-back with a couple of injuries here and there. A lot of times, especially if you are swinging the bat well, it’s hard to come back and find that rhythm and timing again, but, for the most part, he was able to do that.”
Pinder was able to put up those offensive numbers despite learning a new defensive position. A shortstop and third baseman for most of his career, Pinder moved over to second base in 2014 to accommodate fellow top prospects Daniel Robertson and Renato Nunez. Pinder struggled at times early in the season, but by the end of the year, he was a steady defensive presence at second base. He also fared well when he got his turn to play at shortstop.
With Robertson now in Tampa, Pinder figures to move back to shortstop this season with Double-A Midland. Pinder is an excellent athlete and he has a strong throwing arm, so he has a chance to stick at the shortstop position. The biggest challenge for Pinder moving forward will be to stay healthy. He has battled a variety of minor injuries since turning pro, including a wrist injury he played through for the final month of the 2014 season that sapped some of his power.
“Chad’s biggest thing is hopefully he can be able to stay durable during the year. But the bat is exciting, definitely. He has a lot of extra-base hits during the year. He can move around the infield,” A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens said during the season. “He has played a lot of games at second base, but I think he is still very capable of playing shortstop and third base. He has power and can use the whole field. He’s an exciting prospect. I compare his physicality and his style of play to J.J. Hardy. He has a lot of upside and we’re intrigued by the talent. Going forward, he’s going to be an exciting prospect in our system.”
Pinder demonstrated last season that he can hit for power and for average, but he still has work to do with his selectivity at the plate. His K:BB was 99:22 last season. Pinder was a bit too aggressive at times, often chasing pitches early in the count. Pinder doesn’t have blazing speed, but he did steal 12 bases, although he was caught nine times. Pinder has already shown that he is capable of making adjustments and improvements, so it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him improving in both areas.
In some ways, he has a similar offensive profile to former A’s prospect Grant Green. Both are aggressive hitters who barrel the ball on the bat well and have above-average gap power for a middle infielder. Pinder's hit tool isn’t quite as advanced as Green’s was at the same stage in their careers, but Pinder is a better defensive player than Green was during his time in the A’s system.
The jump to Double-A will be a good challenge for Pinder, who will have to battle the winds that can be tough on right-handed power hitters in the Texas League. He will turn 23 just before the start of the regular season.