Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Chase Pinder - Outfielder
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft
A+ Palm Beach
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This is the story of an outfield prospect that caught my eye while I was watching Seth Beer during Beer's Freshman and Sophomore seasons at Clemson.
This is yet another story of how baseball IS family, as Chase's older brother Chad is a utility-ish player for the Oakland Athletics. While I don't invest too much into lineage, I do enjoy a good family narrative.
What stuck out the most about Pinder when he was patrolling the outfield for Clemson was his flair for making a dramatic catch. It was never easy to get a feel for his positioning or his first step, but it was fun to watch his dive and scale and fly all over the outfield. This part of his game has not been as common, so far, in the minors as it was during his time in college (and I'm guessing because he's being guided into better positioning). However, I am confident that he still has the ability and hustle to dive and jump and high-fly like a jackass, if needed. Below is one of the famous catches that he made in college. He goes a pretty long distance pretty quickly to get to it:
As much fun as he was to watch play the outfield, I can say that I knew nothing about his hitting-profile when he was drafted by the Cardinals in 2017. So, it was nice to see the right-handed hitter get off to a great start at the inferior-talented Johnson City level after being drafted. Yes, he was too gifted and polished for that league, but he still performed extremely well. That was enough to warrant extra attention entering the 2018 season.
2018 wasn't as smooth for Pinder as his 2017 debut was, unfortunately. Part of that had to do with the advanced assignment to A+ Palm Beach at the onset of the season. The Florida State League is the worst thing on Earth for a hitter that doesn't have a power tool that carries. That usually goes double for a hitter that is being assigned to the league for their first full-season in the minor leagues. So, it came as no surprise that Pinder hit 171/264/263 with just five extra base hits in 88 plate appearances.
The other reason that he didn't get off to as smooth of a start in 2018 as he did in 2017 was because of injury. On May 1st, Pinder got hurt and missed the next 17 days of the season. I'm not sure what happened in his absence from the lineup, but he came off of the DL with fire in his veins.
From May 18th through August 8th, Pinder hit 284/393/393 with nine doubles, two triples, and three home runs to go along with a 14.6% walk rate and a 20.8% strikeout rate in 240 plate appearances. That was good for an extremely impressive 133 wRC+ over that time span.
As you'll notice in the stats above, Pinder did earn a promotion to Springfield to end the season, but I'm not going to talk much about that because there just isn't that much to talk about. He didn't look over-exposed but he didn't stand out. Plus, the sample was way too small to glean anything from, for the most part. It was just a really nice little earned-promotion and a solid indication that Pinder will start the 2019 season in Springfield.
The issue with Pinder is going to be the lack of power. If he showed any signs of it at all then he'd be ten spots higher on the list, easily. Unfortunately, that's just not his game. You know that it's not like me to rule out the potential of anything for a prospect, but Pinder just doesn't have the swing, the swing speed, or the pop for this to really change.
His swing is tight but it's meant for contact. His bat speed is solid but it's not eye-opening. He isn't the biggest guy, either. He's just a very solid hitter.
He's like the minor league version of the major league - and right-handed swinging - version of Skip Schumaker (Yeah, I've really mailed these evaluations in). You'll notice from both the .gif above and the .gif below that he is swinging mostly with his hands:
One thing that I hope that you take note of (and this is why I said that there was nothing to take from his time in Springfield "for the most part") is that Pinder was using his hips A LOT more at the end of the season. Again, he was still not producing anything in the way of "slug" at Springfield, but it was a fine and positive mechanical adjustment.
Pinder does a good job of controlling the strike zone and there aren't many hitters in the organization that won't bite on bad pitches with the acumen of Pinder. He's just a really smart hitter that understand the strike zone and what he's capable of doing within it. One stat from his time at Springfield that does intrigue me is that he hit the ball to the opposite field 52.2% of the time in 34 plate appearances. I watched most of these at-bats and he wasn't doing it on accident. I really enjoy watching him slap the ball to the other field.
While most would categorize Pinder "the outfielder" as something close to "adequate", I see him as something a little more. Now that I've seen him roam center in the minor leagues I can say that he is an "average" defensive center fielder. He reads the ball off of the bat very well and that helps his adequate natural skills play "up". He isn't afraid to chase anything down and nothing seems to stop him from making the play that needs to be made. He doesn't possess a great arm, but it's good enough for center field.
One area of Pinder's game that gets lost is how good of a base runner he is. He isn't flashy in a "steal yo grrrl" kinda way, but he does knows how to run the bases in a very professional and aggressive way. Pinder is a smart kid that understands that games are won and lost by teams that make the fewest mistakes and he's engineered his game accordingly. If you love players that are defined by their ability to hustle, then Pinder is your guy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While I am higher on Pinder than most, his lack of power should give us pause. Pinder will always have a high OBP because of his understanding of the strike zone and his plate discipline, but those won't do him any good without the development of at least a little more power. He's an average outfielder, and he makes the most of his skill-set in regards to every aspect of the game. Pinder is the perfect example of a prospect to keep an eye on but that you shouldn't get too excited about just yet. With a little added front leg-step for power, the excitement might come with a little added power.
MAY 1st UPDATE
I truly, firmly, deeply believed that Pinder should have started the year in Double-A, and I was vocal about how bad of a decision I thought that it was that he was going back to Palm Beach to start the 2019 season.
Well, Pinder has been terrible and I look stupid once again. Honestly, I'm not sure that Pinder could play much worse than he has. It's a damn shame, really. Here's to hoping that he turns it around quickly. It was at about the beginning of May last season that he start to catch fire. That is, before he got hurt. Hopefully the fire comes without injury. I still really like this kid.