Michael Pineda Keeps Putting Up Numbers

Jeff's post about IFA Luis Heredia is below this and still fresh.

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Michael Pineda first caught our attention in 2008 when he carved up the Midwest League and out-pitched his higher profile rotation-mates.  He picked up right where he left off in 2009 in a much tougher pitching environment with High Desert, but had his breakout spoiled by a pair of DL stints that ate up most of his regular season before he came back strong in the California League playoffs.

Coming into 2010 the feeling was that Pineda could emerge as one of the best starting pitching prospects in all of baseball if he could show that last season's elbow problems were not to be a reoccuring problem.  From what I can gather around the 'net, it's not just Mariner fans who want to put him in that group of elite starting pitching prospects but are reluctant due to his abbreviated 2009.

Pineda is doing what he can.  Through 10 starts this season he has already surpassed his 2009 regular season workload by 13 innings all while increasing his fastball velocity to the 93-95 range-- topping out in the high 90s-- and continuing his assault on minor league hitters.

57.1 IP, 63 K, 14 BB, 2.21 FIP

He's had some favorable luck, including a tiny HR/BIA rate and high strand rate, but that doesn't take away a whole lot.  He's been extremely good.

There is some nitpicking we could do.  He is looking less and less like a groundball pitcher nowadays and has been more or less neutral this season. And his walk rate has taken a small jump from last year with the added velocity, probably a product of him pitching closer to max effort this year (according to a scouting report).  He has good enough control that we're okay with that trade-off, however.

The drawback to Pineda's game that I would first point out, however-- outside of the 2009 injuries, of course-- would be his changeup usage.  Pineda's changeup has flashed as a good pitch at times, but according to scouting reports he hasn't been using it nearly as often as he should this season.  I don't necessarily blame him because he is showing that he can put up good numbers without it, but the splits show that he could use a little help versus lefties.  He actually has a higher K-rate against lefties, but when they hit him they hit him hard as evidenced by their LD%, number of extra base hits and super high BABIP against him.  Pineda needs to start throwing his changeup more so he gets comfortable with it. 

But overall this has been a very good bounce back year for Pineda so far.  He's 6th among Southern League starting pitchers in K/9, 10th in BB/9 and 5th in ERA all while being the youngest starter in the league.  (edit: second youngest)

Pineda continues to fly under the radar nationally-- not necessarily unnoticed but certainly un-hyped.  He's capable of becoming a top starting pitching prospect nationally however as long as he can stay healthy and stay the course.  If he were playing under the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies banner you know the entire country would know his name by now.

6 other Pineda videos here.

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