Oakland Athletics’ Chad Pinder Named Texas League Player of the Year

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Oakland Athletics’ minor-league infielder Chad Pinder is no longer living in the shadows of superstar Addison Russell, and it shows. The A’s seventh-ranked prospect was recently named Texas League Player of the Year, as well as being named to the Postseason All-Star Team.

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The RockHounds made the Texas League playoffs, and they’re currently squaring off for the Championship in the second round of the postseason. Unfortunately, Pinder injured his hamstring on a terrific foul catch in the first series and had to be placed on the seven-day disabled list. That doesn’t take away from his stellar regular season, however.

Pinder was hot throughout the 2015 season, batting .317/.361/.486 for the A’s Double-A Midland Rockhounds in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Texas League. He hit 15 home runs, swiped seven bases, and knocked in 86 RBIs during 117 regular season games. Those are impressive numbers for a player who was only ranked 12th on the prospect list heading into the season, and he’s even better when compared to other players at the Double-A level.

Among qualified Texas League batters, Pinder was ranked third in hits (151), fifth in doubles (32), ninth in home runs, and first in RBIs. He also had the second-highest average and the third-best OPS in the league. Pinder accomplished all of those marks while barely cracking the top-20 in games played, so it’s not as though he simply had more at-bats than everyone else.

Pinder was a second-round draft pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, after playing three years at Virginia Tech. He’s just 23 years old, with under three years of professional experience, and perhaps there’s been too much resistance towards his potential as a future major leaguer. Pinder has certainly opened eyes with his 2015 performance.

The Athletics do need infield help. While Eric Sogard is an above-average defender, Pinder’s bat would be a huge asset if his hitting abilities transfer to the major league level. Sogard is also only under contract through the 2017 season, meaning the A’s will certainly need to replace him in two years. Marcus Semien has shown marked improvements defensively in the second half, but it has come largely at the expense of his offense. He will need to show that he can put both together at the same time before the A’s can pencil him in as their everyday shortstop going forward.

There’s certainly room on a future team for Pinder, but there will likely be at least one more season separating him from the big leagues. If he begins at Triple-A next season and has a strong year, he might warrant a look when rosters expand in September, but first he has areas in which he can improve. For example, he walked just over five percent of the time, and he struck out more than 100 times. While those things can be overlooked if the rest of his skills are strong, there’s no reason to rush him to the big leagues.

It might seem strange to view a Double-A prospect as only a year away, given that Pinder hasn’t even had the opportunity to prove that he can hit Triple-A pitching, but sometimes Double-A can be more difficult. This is especially true in Pinder’s case, because the Texas League is regarded as especially troubling for hitters. Even fellow A’s prospect Matt Olson, who excelled at every other level, struggled during his first few months at Midland. The parks are very pitcher-friendly, and most players have a hard time adjusting to them.

If Pinder can hit in Texas, he should be able to hit anywhere. There’s a lot to like about the Oakland Athletics’ seventh-ranked prospect, and with any luck, he’ll continue to show that as he moves up through the system.

Next: Double-A Midland Reaches Championship Series

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