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Elephant Rumblings: Everyday opportunities for Chad Pinder in 2022?

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
Oct 1, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Mark Canha (20) celebrates with right fielder Chad Pinder (4) after a home run against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning at Minute Maid Park.
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

Mark Canha, Matt Olson, and Matt Chapman have all left the building. That makes me sad. Chad Pinder probably feels the loss, too. But with the A’s roster in flux, the super-versatile utilityman also recognizes an opportunity to get more time on the field this season. Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle assessed the prospects for Pinder, a clubhouse leader and now the A’s longest-tenured position player, to become a lineup regular in 2022.

Pinder is capable of filling just about any gap in the lineup. In six seasons with the A’s, he has started at least one game at every position except pitcher and catcher; he became the first player in Oakland history to do this in 2018, per MLB’s official site.

Pinder has most frequently played the corner outfield positions. Mark Canha and Starling Marte, both regulars in the A’s outfield last year, signed with the Mets as free agents, leaving a big void. The A’s still have some outfield depth, however: Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, and Seth Brown are also potential starters. Laureano could be a lock in the outfield, but he still has 27 games of a PED suspension left to serve, and he is also rumored to be a trade candidate. Piscotty may also be questionable, as he is dealing with shoulder soreness. Splashy prospect Cristian Pache certainly can’t be ignored, but it remains to be seen if he will start the season with the major league club.

The A’s also have openings in the infield, where Chad was originally developed to play. To date, he has logged 46 games at third base and 91 games at second base in the majors. Tony Kemp and Elvis Andrus are currently the only established veteran infielders on the A’s depth chart, though there are also some strong prospects like Nick Allen and Kevin Smith and familiar non-roster invitees like Sheldon Neuse in the mix. So Pinder isn’t a lock at any one position, but with so much roster flux, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a need for him on a regular basis.

With more starts would come more plate appearances, and one may hope that regular PAs—along with good health—could help Pinder unleash his potential at the plate. He certainly has flashed power at times. The 29-year-old Virginia native hit for an essentially average 99 wRC+ last season with a 26.6% K rate per Fangraphs. But there is no doubt that he has pop when he makes good contact: he had the highest exit velocity (92.6 mph) of any Athletic who put at least 150 balls in play last season, and his 54.2% hard-hit rate exceeded that of Shohei Ohtani and Nelson Cruz.

The A’s aren’t expected to contend this year, but it will be interesting to see who can step up and play a bigger role, and it seems a good bet that Chad Pinder will finally get a much-deserved chance to play every day, health permitting. We’re rooting for you, Chad!

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