Michael Pineda with a Bullet

In the comments, we're noodling around with some current M's prospects.  .. that being a somewhat unexpected angle, considering that we wrote five articles assessing our 2006-07 prospects.  :- )

But I'll take it, of course, along with the renewed deference that we're showing the tools scouts who did such an awesome job for BA three years ago.


=== Super Sabr Star Dept. ===

Noodling around with those current M's prospects, amigos looked and looked again and looked a third time and kind of went .... um, how did Michael Pineda do THAT at High Desert?

For those who just joined us, the high-A California League is the one league in organized baseball that gives the craziest hitter numbers, and has for at least 20 years.  I remember an early Bill James book in which he was calling everybody's attention to the young Edgar and Bill goes, "His numbers look like something out of the California League."

But High Desert itself is an absolute joke of a ballpark, a place they don't send pitching prospects, if they have any makeup concerns whatsoever ... it's the California League squared, cubed, what's the English word for taken to the 4th power Matty?


In this context, Pineda last year, as a 20-year-old, fired a preposterous 48:6 control ratio with a 2+ ERA in eight games as a starting pitcher...

Matt asks, how could any high-A pitcher be any better than that sabermetrically?  The answer is, it's not possible to do better than that... Stephen Strasburg his ownself wouldn't have better results at High Desert.  Jon Lester wouldn't have retired batters any better than Michael Pineda did.

If sabr is about assessing performance, Pineda gets a perfect 10 on a scale of 1-to-Bob Gibson.


=== Doin' it for Fun and Doin' it for a Livin' ===

So why doesn't Pineda get more attention, people wonder?

Nationally, he gets next to none with the fans.  Locally, the best minors analysts have been putting him like #6 in the org, which is ahead of the curve relative to other fans.


Which is a good illustration of the difference between prospect reputations INSIDE the game and prospect reputations OUTSIDE the game.

A year-and-a-half ago, halfway through Pineda's rookie season at Wisconsin, before Pineda ever went to High Desert, scouts all around were calling Pineda a potential #1-2 starting pitcher in the bigs, better than Aumont, better than Juan Ramirez, etc.

Here's an outstanding Jason Churchill article on Pineda from June 2008.  Note carefully:  not 2009, but 2008, scouts were talking about Pineda as a #1-2 in the bigs.


We don't mean to, um, carp, but ... each year at the trade deadline, we hear that only two or three teams have the prospects to trade for Roy Halladay.  

You know how you react when you hear that Willie Bloomquist should start, because he does the things that don't show up in the box score?  :- ) That's how I react when I hear that Org X doesn't have any decent prospects.


The fact that casual fans chuckle about MLB Organization X, Y, and Z not having any decent prospects to trade ... whereas scouts spend their lives watching the Michael Pinedas of the game ... that is one of the last-surviving disconnects between us guys behind our monitors, and the guys who do it for a living.  We are out of contact with reality when we fail to appreciate the talent that every team has in its minors system.

Next spring, when you see the popular top prospect lists oblivious to Michael Pineda, keep in mind that nobody understands all 1,500 prospects.  It's why Pat Gillick keeps a BA book on his desk.

We're all in the dark when it comes to the vast, uncharted ocean that lies below MLB level.  Even the GM's buy books from Borders to try to catch up.






Question arose as to whether Pineda's upside has been pegged at TOR by scouts.
The answer is yea, as in this quote of a scout by Jason back in June 2008 (before the incredible performance at High Desert.  Said the scout,
"If he's able to continue to throw strikes with that kind of consistency, he's got a real chance to develop into a frontline starter," an area scout for an AL club said. "His stuff is playing up at this level because he's hitting his spots, especially with a good fastball. When you can do that, you're way ahead of the curve (in Class A)."
In this context, "frontline starter" does not mean "one of the best starters on his team."  It means "one of the best starters in baseball."  It's equivalent to the term "Grade A starter."  It doesn't mean "Hall of Fame starter," the way many fans do when they speak of a frontline starter being Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux.  But "frontline starter" means Erik Bedard, Dan Haren, Zack Greinke, etc.
Jason himself then opines "somewhere between #2 and #3 starter," but IMHO that's just because of the imperative not to overstate things if you want to work in baseball.
Me personally?  I can't imagine what more you would ask for, if you wanted a class-A pitcher who profiled to be an All-Star at the major league level.   If Pineda isn't a potential staff ace, who is?  Somebody who throws 96 and has no idea where the ball is going?  I've seen plenty 'nuff of those in my day, thanks.


The slow-mo confirms that Pineda doesn't have any timing problems whatsoever.
He does have some pretty clear hyperabduction and mediocre hip/shoulder separation (which will put more stress on the upper body/arm and limit his velocity potential). While his followthrough is solid in the slow-mo, its inconsistent and mediocre at times in the first video - In particular #1,#4,#5 deliveries he doesn't let his pitching arm deccelerate and it snaps back in a herky-jerky motion.
I'd categorize him somewhere between above-average and high risk considering the mechanics/age/injuries, though hes not a train wreck by any means. Most likely hes a reliever, but he should stay in the rotation until proven otherwise.
Thanks for the 'put amigo.  Your opinions on the mechanics are as valuable as anybody's.
The ironic thing here, is that the quotes I've seen about Pineda's velo is that he's liable to add significant speed as he goes along -- sit 95 three years from now.


A different scout, an NL scout rather than the AL scout who projected "frontline starter" for Pineda, said:
"Once this group gets to Double-A and Triple-A, (Pineda) might be the best of the three," the NL scout said. "Aumont gets the attention and Ramirez has the bigger fastball, but Pineda is probably the most likely to max out."
Aumont was #8 overall to the M's and certainly would have gone top-15 or top-20 to somebody if the M's hadn't taken him.  We're talking about a top-half-of-round-1 guy there, and we all know about Juan Ramirez.
Yet, I can't find a quote from a pro scout that does not have Pineda projected above those two blue-chippers.
At this point I'm bemused by the resistance to Pineda's obvious blue-chip ranking.  I can understand his not having been noticed by non-pro's prior to this, but am mystified as to the resistance now that Pineda's upside is delineated.
:- )


I think Pineda has the best pure stuff, the best command, the best mound intelligence, and the highest upside of any of our current starting pitching prospects.  If concerns over his mechanics prove justified, that won't matter...and I've heard enough to make me rethink putting Pineda 4th on my prospect list...especially now that I find out Robles finished very strong this year...last I heard he was getting clocked in AA for us so I got worried...but if he is indeed settling in, my mind is more at ease moving him back up.

shields's picture

That does not read "he's a blue chipper" to me.  I see it as saying Pineda has the highest probability, even though "Aumont gets the attention and Ramirez has the bigger fastball," which I completely agree with.  I think he is most likely to make his mark in the big leagues, but my impression is that Ramirez and to a lesser extent Robles and Cortes have more electric stuff.
That's no knock on Pineda.  High probability prospects are great.  McNamara stocked the farm with high probability prospects through the draft, passing up on higher upside but more volatile commodities, and I don't disagree with the strategy.  But when you've got Pineda and (say) Ramirez side by side and you ask yourself, "If everything goes right, who will be better?"  I would think that Ramirez comes out on top.  Pineda is more likely to "max out," but if Ramirez maxes out you've got a slightly better pitcher on your hands.  My opinion, anyway.  Moving on..
"Yet, I can't find a quote from a pro scout that does not have Pineda projected above those two blue-chippers."
That's because those articles are about Pineda.  JAC goes out, finds a scout that likes Pineda, and gets his input.  It makes for a good read.  JAC is a reporter who is a fan of scouting, rather than a scout who reports his findings.  At least that's the impression I've gotten from conversations with him and hanging around the ballpark.  If the article is about Pineda blossoming, he's going to get quotes to support that.  If he wanted to write a report about Pineda being overrated, I guarentee he could find quotes to support that as well.
But we keep coming back to JAC and the quotes and information he's gathered, so why does his ranking get lost in this?  In his last update he had Ramirez at #7 but Pineda all the way down at #16.  Why?


I'd be curious to know what Jason's explanation for that error... er, opinion would be.  :- )  I suppose he's thinking about the tender elbow.
If so, he's going his own way vis-a-vis BA's usual modus operandi.  Like we posted, BA had Mark Lowe #8 in the M's org going into 2007 *because* of the impending elbow surgery.


And I'll put Michael Pineda equal with anybody in the M's org, including Ackley, and top-25 in baseball.
Funny how sabermetricians lose track of the performance imperative. :- )  It was 1983 that James began talking about judging players based on how they perform, as opposed to what they look like.
Then you get a 20-year-old who performs better than Curt Schilling would, in that ballpark, and everything BUT the performance matters.
Honestly, I don't get how you amigos are missing the point on that impossible performance.


I'm the fool who had Pineda fourth on my prospect list. :)  BECAUSE of the performance.


Hopefully Pineda will be an Ichiro-, Lincecum-type controversy early on, 'cause if he makes the bigs healthy, he's liable to be one of SSI's biggest scores.  :- )   jemanji's and SABRMatt's, along with Taro maybe?
I kinda thought after our POTD everybody'd go, "Oh, ok!  Cool!" but there's a good amount of resistance, meaning you and I get to adopt Pineda, I guess.

Taro's picture

Limited innings and the injury scares kind of make me back off a little..
A strong (healthy) season in AA next year and than you may really have something.

Anonymous's picture

Should note that Jason has his "Prospects of the year" post up for the M's minor leagues. Juan Ramirez is his #1 pitching prospect; Pineda isn't in the top five but he is his "Watch out for..." pitcher for 2010. I'm guessing the partial season must have knocked Pineda out of contention in 2009.


JAC is high on Pineda too...he's just being responsible and keeping the expectations low with his elbow stiffness.
I am a big fan of Ramirez as y'all know.  AA is going to be SICK this year.

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