A little more than three years after being selected in the compensation round B in 2013, Chad Pinder is in the big leagues. The 71st overall pick in the 2013 draft joined the Oakland A's after three standout years at Virginia Tech. As a Hokie, Pinder hit .322 with an 898 OPS. He also had a solid summer in the Cape Cod League in 2012.
Pinder had a rough pro debut in 2013. Hampered by injuries, Pinder hit .200/.286/.293 in 42 games for the Vermont Lake Monsters. He played mostly shortstop for the Lake Monsters that season. That fall, Pinder worked closely with current Chicago White Sox hitting coach and former A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson on making several adjustments to his set-up and hitting mechanics.
"In terms of adjustments, he's probably made the most [during Instructs]," Steverson said after Instructs concluded. "To his credit, they were in pieces. It was ‘try this,' ‘do that,' ‘and that will effect this.' They were building blocks where one would morph into the other. It took a minute and it was probably mind-boggling for him to continually feel the discomfort of something new for an extended period of time. I would say that he is still a little uncomfortable, but he's starting to get it. He is a really good athlete. The best thing about Chad is his willingness to want to do something to get better. I could throw a lot of different things at him and he'd be like, ‘let's do it. If it makes me better, let's do it.'"
Pinder built off of that Instructional League performance during the spring of 2014. A solid showing during minor league camp landed Pinder in High-A Stockton to start the year, as the A's had Pinder skip Low-A entirely. He joined a talented group of Ports' infielders that included current A's third baseman Ryon Healy, current A's back-up catcher Bruce Maxwell, Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and A's corner infield prospects Matt Olson and Renato Nunez.
With Robertson slated to play shortstop with the Ports and Healy and Nunez sharing time at third base, the A's moved Pinder to second base. It took him some time at the start of the year to adjust to the new position, but by mid-season, he and Robertson were a solid double-play combination for Stockton. Pinder found plenty of success at the plate with the Ports. Although injuries limited Pinder to 94 games, he still made an impact at the plate, batting .288/.336/.489 with 13 homers and 12 stolen bases.
Current A's assistant hitting coach and then A's minor league hitting coordinator Marcus Jensen was impressed with Pinder's ability to maintain his rhythm at the plate despite missing time with injury.
"Pinder started the season off really good and really hot and swinging the bat well," Jensen said at the end of the 2014 season. "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."
That off-season, the A's traded Robertson to Tampa, opening another opportunity for Pinder to move to the six spot on the field. That spring, he talked about the adjustment back to shortstop and about the changes he had made at the plate during his career. In addition to the position change, Pinder's focus that spring was on working the count.
"I have basically just been working on getting deeper in counts and on my two-strike approach,” Pinder said during the final days of the 2015 spring. “Kind of limiting the strike-outs and working on the walks. I think as I grow as a player and get more at-bats, that will come. That’s been the emphasis for this spring, really working on the two-strike approach.”
Pinder's walk totals didn't change much in 2015, but his overall pitch recognition and ability to get into hitter's counts improved -- and he saw dramatic results. From Opening Day, Pinder was one of the top offensive players in the Texas League and he would go on to win the Texas League's MVP award. Pinder hit .317/.361/.486 for the RockHounds and he became the first Midland player to win the league MVP since Chris Carter took home the award in 2009. Pinder accomplished all of that while also relearning how to play shortstop.
Then Midland and now Nashville hitting coach Eric Martins said that Pinder's work ethic played a big role in his ability to perform as he did at the plate despite the position change.
“Chad is a smart kid. He is really a student of the game. His dad played. He really worked at things,” Martins said last off-season. “He was breaking down video and we would go over scouting reports and he was putting in his work. We kept a pretty good routine this season. That’s one that might have helped him was that he had a routine. He stuck with it, studied the pitchers, watched video.
“At the beginning of the year, we kind of talked about his offensive approach and what we wanted to work on this year. For him, he is a high strike-out guy. I talked to him about why there were so many strike-outs. We didn’t want to take away his aggressiveness but it was about having a better approach, understanding what pitchers were going to try to do to get him out at the plate. Chad’s not a free swinger. He had an idea of what he wanted to do at-bat to at-bat. He really stuck to that and did a great job.”
Pinder's breakout 2015 season continued into the fall when he played for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He hit four homers in 13 games and was named to the league's Rising Stars game. Below is video from Kimberly Contreras of Pinder's time at the AFL.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/1681936-chad-pinder-remaining-e... This season hasn't gone quite as smoothly for Pinder. Playing shortstop everyday for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Pinder began the year struggling with his throws from the hole. He improved his throwing mechanics as the season went on, but the defensive issues early in the year may have impacted him at the plate. He has hit for power for Nashville (.425 SLG and 14 homeruns in 117 games), but he was batting only .258 at the time of his call-up.
A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman recently talked about Pinder's struggles this season and how he has worked to get past them.
"He’s overcome probably the first time that the game has stopped him," Lieppman said. "He saw some pitches and situations that he hadn’t probably ever seen before. He didn’t expect to see the pitches that he got. He comes with a reputation. Teams know who he is and they immediately and aggressively went after him with their best stuff. He has to continue to make those adjustments along the way.
"At about the halfway point in the season, we are really starting to see him develop more selectivity and discipline. The more he continues to get better with that, the better he is going to be. He is very talented. He had some defensive issues early that have been resolved. His throwing angles and understanding the position. But that’s all part of the process. He went through a similar adjustment period defensively as Marcus Semien. Semien had to make those big adjustments and Pinder is in that same category, too. He’s continuing to get better."
In some ways, Pinder profiles very similarly to Semien. Like Semien, Pinder is big for the position and has above-average power for a middle infielder. Also like Semien, Pinder can play second base and third base, in addition to shortstop. Pinder has had a knack for hitting for average throughout his career. He aggressive at the plate, but he has learned to be more selective about the pitches he attacks as he has advanced through pro ball. He is a smart player who spends a lot of time analyzing his game and his opposition. Dating back to college, Pinder received high marks for his leadership abilities and he has always been popular with his teammates.
Pinder is one of five homegrown players on the A's current 25-man roster and he is the third member of his draft class to debut for the A's this season (Healy and Dillon Overton are the other two). Pinder joins Healy, Ryan Dull, Zach Neal, Sean Manaea and Maxwell as members of the 2015 Texas League Champion Midland RockHounds on the current A's roster, as well.