Scouting Yankees Prospect #36: Branden Pinder

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher Branden Pinder in the 16th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Long Beach State. Long lauded for his power arm, he bounced back from a roller-coaster 2013 campaign with a breakout season of sorts last season after he finally realized that less is more.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Branden Pinder
Position: Pitcher
DOB: January 26, 1989
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

His 2013 season wasn't what he was expecting as he posted just a combined 4.42 ERA over two minor league levels and the main culprits were not attacking batters enough and an inconsistent secondary pitch.

"If I get one of [the secondary pitches] going if not two of them going it will be pretty good for me," he said a year ago. "Developing that secondary pitch and keeping my walks to a minimum -- if I can not beat myself on the mound I can be that effective pitcher I think I can be."

He knew what had to be done, he just needed to execute the plan. Hbegan attacking batters once again late that season and carried over that approach with him into his 2014 campaign and that was a big reason why he enjoyed a renaissance season of sorts, posting a combined 2.04 ERA over three minor league levels.

"The year went well," he said. "I had some injuries that side-tracked me a little bit but other than that I thought I felt well enough to throw the ball well. Those injuries side-tracked me like I said but other than that I thought it was pretty good."

A nagging groin injury caused him to miss the better part of two months last season and he was going to make up for lost time by going to the Arizona Fall League this offseason but a minor bout of elbow inflammation by season's end pumped the brakes on that idea."

"That was fine, there was just some inflammation in there," he said of the elbow. "I was going to go the Arizona Fall League but they just decided to shut me down for the rest of the year. I was looking forward to it. I was kind of bummed about it but my health comes first over that and that's what they thought was best for me so that's what I did.

"I threw some bullpens at the end of my rehab session and felt well, and I'm throwing the ball real well right now too."

Completely healthy now, while Pinder would have liked to have logged some more innings last season he is excited about what he was able to accomplish in the time he did pitch.

"The fastball command was good and just limiting the walks, I was just more aggressive with hitters than the previous year," he admitted. "I just took the mentality of 'here it is, if you can hit it then hit it, if not then it's strike one'."

Going after batters early and often more consistently was something he knew that he needed to do. It wasn't the only thing, however. He had always flashed a plus slider in previous years but it was never a consistent weapon for him, and that aspect of his game changed in 2014 as well.

"Yeah it was good. I was consistent with it; ahead in the count sliders, behind the count sliders, first-pitch sliders, they were all good."

Aiding the development of his slider last season was the notion of paring down his repertoire. A former starting pitcher in college, Pinder had tinkered with both a curveball and a cutter in recent years in an effort to find a reliable secondary pitch and what he found out was it was incredibly hard to develop any one of them into the kind of pitch he wanted when he was trying to mix in so many different pitches coming out of the bullpen.

"I threw the cutter little bit in the offseason and then in Spring Training but I didn't think it was good enough for me to throw in games," he said. "I'm not throwing that curveball anymore either."

Able to focus primarily on two pitches in a less is more formula has allowed Pinder to get back on track and it is his plan going forward.

"I turned a corner in my development for sure. It's the same thing for this coming season, just staying consistent with my fastball, limit the walks, throw the slider ahead in the count and behind in the count, and go after guys."

As effective as he was last season, however, he still doesn't think we've seen the best of Branden Pinder just yet.

"I don't think so, no. Hopefully I will get to the big leagues and prove myself there. I think I'm good to go. Whenever they need me they can have me.

"I'm definitely proud of myself, especially looking back from where I've come from between high school, four years of college, the short-season leagues to where I am now, it's been a long journey. I've got a lot more knowledge under my belt, that's for sure," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Scranton

1-0

1

16.2

17

5

12

3.78

2014

Trenton

2-0

5

16.0

7

2

18

0.56

2014

GCL Yankees2

0-0

0

7.0

5

2

7

1.29

2013

Trenton

1-1

5

24.1

28

16

22

6.29

2013

Tampa

1-2

1

49.0

39

11

50

3.49

2012

Trenton

0-0

0

1.1

1

0

0

0.00

2012

Tampa

2-6

9

67.2

70

29

67

2.79

2011

Staten Island

2-2

14

31.0

16

5

38

1.16



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Velocity-wise Pinder has always been electric. He sits mostly in the 93-95 mph range with a heavy four-seam fastball that shows excellent late life, and he routinely tops out at 97 mph. His fastball command had been spotty at times in previous years, not so much because of any mechanical flaw but more due to a desire to nibble the corners, and now he's getting back to challenging batters with the old number one.

Other Pitches. Pinder scrapped both his curveball and cutter in favor of focusing all of his attention on bettering his slider. It will range anywhere from 86-89 mph with good hard, late break. It had always shown above average big league potential but lacked the consistency from a strike-throwing standpoint, and that seemingly is no longer an issue. He mixes is a power changeup mostly early in counts just to let batters know he has one but it isn't really an out-pitch for him on any level. It is still a little too hard right now, averaging 88-91 mph. He can throw it for strikes but if hitters guess correctly it can be quite hittable.

Pitching. There isn't much mystery to Pinder's game anymore. In true grip it and rip it style, he goes after batters with plus fastballs and above average to plus sliders, and challenges them in the zone. No longer concerned with nibbling corners, he is in complete beast mode when he toes the rubber. He has ironed out his control issues but fine-tuning the command is still a work in progress. When he's locating both pitches in the lower-half of the zone he is extremely effective.

Projection. Pinder has always had big league setup man or closer potential given his effective fastball but he needed an above average secondary pitch to fulfill that kind of potential. He seems to finally have found that with his slider, at least for the time being. In a lot of way he compares favorably to current New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell, another former college starting pitcher. Like Parnell, Pinder will get by mostly on his power fastball and the slider, while devastatingly effective at times, could remain a developmental focal point for the foreseeable future.

ETA. 2015. Pinder should find his way back to Triple-A Scranton to begin the 2015 season and he will be on the short list of potential candidates should the big league bullpen need a power right-handed reliever.


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