MLB Scouting Notes: Pineda's Velocity

TAMPA - Yankees' RHP Michael Pineda has repeatedly made statements this spring explaining that velocity is not important right now, that "nobody throws hard in spring training," and that this is the time for pitchers to work on things. He's mostly correct, but can you blame some onlookers for being a little curious as to why he has been, at times, 7-8 mph below his typical fastball this spring?

First and foremost, it's not true that nobody throws hard in spring training. Some pitchers are a little behind in building their arm strength, but there are plenty of pitchers around spring training that are in mid-season form when it comes to their fastball velocity. That's not say there's anything wrong with keeping something in the tank in March, but it's just not true that all or even the majority of pitchers hold back throughout spring training.

Everything Yankees-related is put under a microscope, however, and that is contributing to the curiosity surrounding the disappearance of Michael Pineda's velocity. But it is hard to blame people for being concerned about it. This is not a case of simple overreaction by a fan base.

However, upon close examination, there's nothing definitive for Yankees fans to be worried about. Pineda's mechanics have not made any changes for the worse since 2011, he's not laboring on the mound, he's locating his pitches, and he's snapping his breaking ball just as well as he did last season.

If there was a physical problem with Pineda, it would almost certainly impact his command as well as his breaking ball. And if mechanics were a problem, his changeup wouldn't be progressing as nicely as it is.

Pineda worked at 88-91 mph on Sunday against Detroit, topping out at 93 a few times later in his outing. Nearly as significant, however, was his spotting a few very good changeups, and the variations of his speeds on his slider. Pineda also appeared to cut his fastball at times as well as mix some two-seamers. This is a young pitcher who needs his velocity, but is not completely defined by it. His pitching aptitude is clearly underrated.

"It's going to come for him," said one scout regarding Pineda's velocity. "Everything else looks really good, and he's varying the breaking ball a little now. It's a big dropoff with his fastball, but there's nothing there that would make you think it's not coming back."

That sentiment seems like the moral of the story right now. The word here is puzzling rather than concerning. It's difficult to not worry about the loss in velocity in Yankeeland, but you can be confident that this isn't a physical problem and it isn't a mechanical problem. That only leaves you with the idea that's he conserving, building strength, and working on his other pitches. That's what he himself claims to be doing, and it's tough to argue with him given how strong his secondary pitches look and given the solid results he's been getting.

If you're a Yankees fan and would like to remain concerned or puzzled, it's a reasonable position. But, given the evidence, and the consensus among scouts watching Pineda this spring, it's difficult to get too worked up until we see if the velocity shows up come April.

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