The hits keep coming for the Oakland A’s infield.
One day after learning that star third baseman Matt Chapman would miss the rest of the season to hip surgery, the A’s also lost his top backup, super-sub Chad Pinder, to a strained hamstring. Pinder was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday, the team announced. There are only 15 games left in the regular season, and 16 days before the playoffs begin.
To replace him on the active 28-man roster, Oakland called up Nate Orf from their alternate training camp. There now appear to be 41 players on the 40-man roster, though that can easily be addressed by shifting one of several candidates from the 10-day IL to the 45-day.
The 28-year-old Pinder hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time this season, but he was about to see a clear path to at-bats with Chapman out of action. He’s not the only potential replacement at third base, but he was heavily in the mix after receiving just 57 plate appearances in the team’s first 45 games.
While Pinder’s overall numbers don’t look like much, including a poor 85 wRC+ to match last year’s 87 mark, he consistently hits the ball hard. His average exit velocity of 92.6 mph ranks second on the club behind only Chapman, and last year he placed third behind Chapman and Matt Olson. His .337 xwOBA this summer is a couple points above league-average, suggesting his hitting has been better than it looks in the box score and making him a prime candidate to improve with more playing time. Oh well.
Pinder: .226/.281/.396, 85 wRC+, 2 HR, 7.0% BB, 21.1% Ks
Even that strikeout rate is a career-best so far.
With two infielders out of action Sunday, the A’s called up Orf to help out. The 30-year-old was signed as a minor league free agent last winter. He has brief MLB experience, having played 15 games with Milwaukee in 2018, but otherwise he’s toiled in Triple-A nonstop since mid-2016. His numbers there over four seasons, in hitter’s paradise Colorado Springs (like Coors Field but higher in elevation):
Orf, 2016-19 AAA: .289/.387/.421, 114 wRC+, 28 HR, 49 SB, 10.8% BB, 14.1% Ks
Totals include 38 games from Double-A in early 2016, and 447 games from Triple-A
The steals came at a productive 78% success rate, though note that the minor league wRC+ mark is adjusted for his friendly league but not his especially friendly park. In his time in the majors, he went 2-for-21 with a homer, a steal, three walks, and eight strikeouts.
Add it up, and the right-handed batter offers plate discipline, on-base ability, and a bit of speed, though not much in the power department.
On defense, Orf has played all over. He’s spent about half his career innings at 2B, but has also put over 1,000 frames into each of 3B and RF, while dabbling at each of SS and LF. Back in 2014, he played all nine positions in one game in High-A ball. Overall, his available defensive metrics are neutral to slightly positive at his primary infield spots.
Analysis: Orf sounds like a Pinder Lite, a versatile righty super-sub but with a completely different skill profile at the plate.
While Orf can help out right away, another move should be coming soon. The A’s are expected to sign soon-to-be free agent 3B Jake Lamb, who was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News, but that won’t happen until Monday when Lamb officially hits the open market.
Get well soon, Chad! Welcome to the Show, Nate!