Midwest League rookies from South American countries often don’t fare well in the harsh early-season weather conditions, much less rookies with no professional experience in the United States. But Beloit Snappers' first baseman Sandber Pimentel has defied those odds this spring, posting impressive offensive numbers despite the less-than-ideal playing conditions.
The Dominican Republic native has posted a slash line of .289/.390/474 through his first 33 games at the Low-A level, his first regular season experience of any kind in the United States.
“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to play,” said the gracious Pimentel through translator Junior Mendez, a Beloit starting pitcher. “My approach has been to take that one pitch and just put a good contact on the ball, not trying to do too much. That’s worked out very well for me so far.”
Although the 6'3'', 220-pound corner infielder certainly put himself in position to play in the United States with an impressive 2014 Dominican Summer League season, it still wasn’t a certainty that he’d get out of Arizona when camp broke this spring.
Oakland’s aggressive assignment for Pimentel after he posted a slash line of .311/.432/.458 last year in the DSL has been a good one, as he has handled the move well. A simple game-plan in the batter’s box has sustained his run of solid play.
“For the most part, he has a pretty consistent approach,” Beloit hitting coach Lloyd Turner said. “A lot of guys at this level want to have an approach, but they get into the at-bat and the pitcher may throw a strike somewhere they’re not looking for it or not what they want. The next thing you know, their mind starts scrambling and it’s on to something else. Pimentel is more of a banger and is in there to do damage.”
Although he didn’t show much home-run power in his DSL days, Pimentel always held the promise of more in-game power thanks to impressive batting practice displays and a physical build screams power-hitter.
That in-game power is starting to emerge, as Pimentel has hit four homers and driven-in 15 runs in 136 plate appearances after mustering just three long balls in 236 at-bats in 2014 in the humid Dominican Republic. Pimentel has also increased his propensity for extra-base hits, with nine doubles to go with his four homers.
The Midwest League can be a pitcher's paradise, but Pimentel has thus far found that he has a good handle on the competition.
“Coming in, I definitely thought it was going to be a lot different than what it’s been,” Pimentel said, referring to the competition he’s faced in the MWL. “I feel very comfortable here and like it’s just the same game of baseball as everywhere else I’ve been.
“Pitchers have had a different approach with me, but I’m leaving those pitches alone that I know I can’t hit or drive. I’m looking for that one pitch I’m going to get every at-bat and drive the ball with good contact.”
While it might take a few weeks in affiliated ball for many youngsters in Pimentel’s position to get comfortable, that period of time took place in spring training for the 20-year-old.
“It was a little rough at the start, because I was playing against guys who have been at all different levels,” he said of his time in camp this spring. “It took some time for me to get adjusted to that, coming from the Dominican Republic and coming out here gaining different experience. I had to focus on staying within myself and not doing too much.”
Pimentel's approach has been solid throughout his professional career. Including his time in the DSL, Pimentel's career OBP is .408. In five weeks of tutoring Pimentel, Turner is hard-pressed to find many negatives about his young first baseman’s performance.
“It really takes a lot for him to get out of that mold,” Turner said. “He’s big with a really good base, as far as his fundamentals go. The only thing that he does is get big at times, but for the most part he sticks with his approach.
“He takes healthy hacks, swings the bat and doesn’t get cheated. He’s the same guy and same batter. There are times he may get to two strikes and I have to remind him to bring it down a little bit and battle.”
Pimentel and his Beloit teammates return home Monday night for a matchup against Kane County.