Name: Sandber Pimentel
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 220
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in November 2011
Making the transition from playing in the Dominican Summer League to any league in the United States is a difficult one, but making the jump from the DSL directly to a full-season league that is tough on hitters is a particularly daunting task. That was the challenge faced by Sandber Pimentel this past season.
It wasn’t an easy path for Pimentel to get to play in the US. Despite receiving a six-figure signing bonus (reportedly $160,000) from the A’s, Pimentel spent three seasons in the DSL before getting an opportunity to come stateside during the A’s fall Instructional League in 2014. Pimentel’s numbers in the DSL were solid (his OPSs went from 751 to 775 to 890 in each season he was in the DSL), especially for a league that is tough on hitters. However, the A’s wanted Pimentel to focus on his defense before making the jump to the US.
Sandber Pimentel Stats
When Pimentel finally did arrive in the US in the fall of 2014, he took full advantage of the opportunity. He was one of the top performers in the camp, showing power and patience at the plate and some surprising skills at first base. The A’s invited Pimentel to minor league spring training in Mesa at the start of 2015. He continued to impress during that camp. His performance convinced the A’s that the then 20-year-old Pimentel was ready for a full-season league.
Pimentel got off to a strong start for the Beloit Snappers. He hit .262 with a .361 OBP in April and then had a huge month of May, homering eight times and posting a 940 OPS. For a time, it looked like Pimentel might push his way to the California League before the end of the season.
Instead, Pimentel hit a wall in June and July. He managed just one homerun during those two months and hit under .220. Pimentel’s patience evaporated in June (four walks in 76 at-bats), although it did return in July (18 walks in 90 at-bats), even if the power didn’t. In August, Pimentel homered three times, but he was never able to recapture the rhythm at the plate that he had during that month of May.
Despite the mid-season struggles, Pimentel’s overall numbers were decent for a 20-year-old in his first season in the US. He finished tied for sixth in the league in homers and tied for 18th in walks. Playing a full-year younger than the league average for the MWL in 2015, Pimentel’s .243/.335/.380 line was slightly better than the MWL’s average line of .254/.321/.360.
Pimentel’s long 2015 season didn’t end with 117 regular season games. He once again participated in the A’s fall Instructional League. Like he did in 2014, Pimentel put together a good fall camp, showing an ability to make adjustments both at the plate and in the field.
Video of Sandber Pimentel from 2015 fall Instrutional League (video by Kimberly Contreras)
The A’s believe Pimentel grew a lot as a player during the 2015 season and that he will be better prepared for the grind of a full season in 2016.
“To go from where he was, there is such a big learning curve that a lot of people don’t understand. Culturally, learning how to play the professional game, how to be a good teammate, there are so many conditions that these young Latin players have to encounter when they come to the United States,” A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said during the season. “There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes, not to mention the day-to-day having to play and in a foreign land. It’s a grind on them.
“He’s certainly everything we thought he would be. He’s has shown power. This has forced him to really focus on his defense. He’ll look back on this year and realize how much he has improved in a few short months.”
A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens echoed Lieppman’s sentiments.
“You are taking about a kid who went from Rookie ball and didn’t play short-season A ball, going straight to Low-A, playing a 140 games in 155 days,” Owens said. “It was a learning experience, but as a 20-year-old with that kind of power and that walk-rate, he has talent.”
Physically, Pimentel is one of the most imposing players in the A’s system. He’s listed at 6’3’’, 220, but he may be bigger than that. He is physically reminiscent of fellow countryman David Ortiz and employs a similar crouched set-up and one-handed follow-through on his swing. Pimentel has a good understanding of the strike-zone and sees a lot of pitches. His contact rate dipped considerably from 2014 to 2015, but his walk-rate stayed above 10%.
Defensively, Pimentel can look stiff at times at first, but there are times when he is surprisingly agile around the bag. He has an average arm. Pimentel is still learning the nuances of playing first base and he struggled at times to keep his focus out on the field, especially during the middle of the season, when he was really slumping at the plate.
A’s minor league field coordinator Aaron Nieckula sees big things for Pimentel in the future.
“He looks the part. You just look at him and he looks like a beast. And he is a beast,” Nieckula said. “When he is on and he’s focused, he’s a dangerous hitter. He’s definitely a middle-of-the-order guy. He’s going to be a run producer. He’s going to hit for power. He came into the Instructional League and made a few adjustments. Mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, he really put together a nice fall for us.”
Pimentel showed enough in the Midwest League in 2015 that he should make the jump to the California League in 2016, provided that he has a good spring. If Pimentel is able to weather the grind of a full season better in 2016, he could eclipse the 20-homer plateau in the hitter-friendly California League.