Nashville Sounds middle infielder Chad Pinder has experienced and up-and-down 2016 in Music City after a monster 2015 season in Double-A Midland which earned him the Player of the Year Award for the Texas League.
Last season, Pinder splintered opposing pitchers to the tune of a .317 average with an 847 OPS, with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs over 477 at-bats in 117 games. That production earned him an invite to big league camp this spring, where he said he learned a lot.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if the time there was beneficial. “Obviously, being around those guys who have all those years in the big leagues, you learn how to go about your business the right way. They’re there for a reason and they’ve stuck for a reason, so anything you can take away from them, it’s gold. They have a great group of guys up there, and it was an honor to be there.”
Pinder took away a lot of time management tips from his stay in big league camp.
“It’s just the little things – how they go about their business. Managing their time – doing work in the cage, doing early work, being out on the field at the right time,” he said. “There’s not a lot of wasted time – there’s always work to be done and those guys are doing it. You watch them go about their business and you realize it takes a lot of work. You pick up on those things and you try to implement them in your game.”
After his breakout 2015 season, the 24-year-old compensation round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2013 came into the 2016 season surrounded by big expectations. He got off to a slow start in Pacific Coast League this year, hitting just .238 with a 616 OPS in April. The struggles continued until mid-May when things finally turned around for him. Pinder admits it took time to get used to playing at the Triple-A level.
“[It mattered] a little bit,” he said. “There’s a little bit of an adjustment period. Obviously, I was struggling pretty bad.”
Despite a rough start to May, Pinder’s hot final two weeks left him with a .280 average and a 776 OPS for the month.
That hot streak continued into June, when he hit for a .358 from June 1-18.
“I guess things are starting to click a little bit for me,” Pinder said on June 18th, a night during which he smacked a home run which every person in First Tennessee Park knew was gone from just the sound off his explosive bat.
He gave credit to the turnaround to watching film and work with Sounds hitting coach Eric Martins.
“I just simplified myself at the plate,” Pinder said. “I spread out a little bit and took out some of the extra motion in my hands. I just tried to simplify as much as possible. Just try to keep it simple and hit the ball hard.”
Pinder’s bat cooled over the past week, as he collected just one hit in 25 at-bats. He has tried to remain level-headed through the ups-and-downs of the season.
“I guess anytime in baseball when you’re going through slumps there are going to be times when you’re swinging the bat well [and still not get hits],” he said of his struggles earlier in the year. “That’s just the nature of baseball; it can go one way or it can the other.”
Despite the roller-coaster nature of Pinder’s season, he is still carrying a respectable .265/.308/.424 line with nine homers in 69 games.
As Pinder searches for consistency at the plate, he is also working on his fielding, whether it be at shortstop, where he spends the majority of his time, or at second base, where he has made four appearances for Nashville.
He said he feels comfortable at either position.
“My first full season I played second the entire year, so it’s not so much of an adjustment for me – I played over 100 games at second my first year in pro ball,” he said. “Last year, I moved back to shortstop with some time at second, but now it’s getting to the point where they’re both pretty comfortable positions.
“There are different angles [for throws] and there are different times – at second base you have a little more time; at shortstop you don’t – but at the end of the day, you field the ball and get involved with the first baseman.”
The only main difference, he said, is in how to handle a double-play ball.
“It is a lot different,” he said. “It’s different coming from second base and going to the bag and then turn and have to throw downhill to first base. In that aspect, it is a little bit different working around the bag.”
As Pinder continues to make the adjustment to Triple-A, he could be looking at another leap towards the end of the year. If the A’s are sellers at the deadline, Pinder will be one of several Nashville prospects who could find their way onto a rebuilding A’s roster during the season’s final months.