Chad Pinder is currently a man without a position. He’s a good hitting prospect, with an MVP pedigree in the upper minors and a homer-heavy 110 wRC+ through 51 games in MLB this year. But where should he play for the rest of the year?
He’s a middle infielder, and the A’s have Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie in those spots with Franklin Barreto waiting in the wings. He played mostly 3B in college, but Matt Chapman has that corner on double-secret lockdown. That brings us to the outfield.
Entering the season, Pinder had never played a professional inning in the outfield. His last experience there had come in his freshman year of college, in 2011. But he’s got the arm strength and the athleticism, and so the A’s gave him a try when there wasn’t space elsewhere — six starts in May and June, all but one in RF. After spending July on the DL, he made back-to-back starts against the Giants this week, one in each corner.
Not only does Athletics Nation not have any complaints about Pinder’s performance in the outfield, he might just be their best corner defender (that is, not including center fielders Rajai Davis or Jaycob Brugman). Allow me to illustrate.
Granted, his route to that ball wasn’t perfect, but he still got there and covered a lot of ground doing so. At the very least it was a decent catch. This was also the second time in his entire professional career that he’d played in LF. He went back to RF the next day (for the eighth time in his pro career) and did this:
Again, perhaps some quicker fielders wouldn’t have needed the dive, but he still got a good read on it and covered some ground to get there. These catches are far from automatic.
But let’s say Khris Davis would have snagged that first one in LF, and Matt Joyce may have gotten to the one in RF with a similar dive. How about this, though?
Pinder’s biggest plus isn’t his range but his arm strength (video), which is a nice tool to have in the outfield. That play reminds me of Josh Reddick style-wise, though I’m not suggesting Pinder’s cannon is quite as reddickulous. It was a nifty spin-and-fire and a perfect one-hop to the bag. The spin move reminds me of this one from the shortstop position.
What I see is a guy with all the tools to be at least a decent outfielder. His range is good enough, his arm is a plus, and he’s clearly got good instincts and hustle. This isn’t to say he needs to get everyday time out there right now, considering the aforementioned incumbents are still productive players as well, but the point is that the outfield is a viable option when figuring out how to get him in the lineup. It’s also a potential future home for him, given the infield logjam in the minors.
Even better, Pinder doesn’t appear to be picky about where he plays.
Pinder: "I’ll tell you this. Any spot on the field is a spot I want to be. Being out on the field is the ultimate thing."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) August 3, 2017
Granted, Bob Melvin says he hopes to find a permanent position for him in the future (via Susan Slusser), but in the meantime he’s putting on a show with his versatility. He even played three games in CF during his injury rehab stint in Triple-A Nashville. All of this defensive flexibility can prove valuable in roster construction down the road.
Oh, and this has nothing to do with his fielding, but just a reminder that Pinder still holds the longest homer by an Oakland player this year, by a big margin, and the fourth-longest in all of MLB this year.
Even Pinder couldn’t catch that drive. Probably. Better give him some more chances out there and find out.