In their ranking of the top 30 prospects in the Cape Cod League, Baseball America featured (subscriber-only) an interesting quote about their 13th-ranked prospect, Virginia Tech junior third baseman Chad Pinder, who spent the summer with the Chatham Anglers.
“He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Evan Longoria since Evan Longoria,” said Chatham’s John Schiffner, who managed Longoria in 2005.
Baseball America qualified that statement as being at least a little bit of hyperbole. But Pinder and Longoria really do have a lot in common. Longoria is 6’2″, 215. Pinder is 6’2″, 192 and could fill out to 215 pounds. OK, that’s interesting, but size is far from everything. But Pinder’s and Longoria’s numbers from their sophomore seasons were eerily similar. Longoria posted a .320/.368/.421 line with 8 doubles, 5 homers, 30 RBI, 10 of 11 steals, and 41 strikeouts versus 14 walks in 58 games for Long Beach State back in 2005. Pinder, meanwhile, posted a .325/.380/.538 line with 22 doubles, 7 homers, 37 RBI, 6 of 11 steals, and 42 strikeouts versus 14 walks in 53 games for Virginia Tech in 2012. Their numbers from the Cape Cod League from following their sophomore seasons were a little bit farther off but still had some things in common. Longoria posted a .299/.331/.500 line with 7 doubles, 8 homers, 35 RBI, and 30 strikeouts versus 7 walks in 41 games while Pinder played in just 21 games because of a sports hernia injury (you can even count that as another similarity between Pinder and Longoria) but posted a .278/.345/.532 line with 4 doubles, 4 homers, 25 RBI, and 25 strikeouts against 7 walks. Does Pinder have really a chance to be a Longoria-caliber player someday?
The numbers may suggest so, but right now Pinder is going to be extremely hard-pressed to put up anywhere near the staggering numbers that Longoria put up as a junior at Long Beach State thanks to significant improvements from his sophomore to junior years, and it’s extremely unlikely that he ends up as a top 5 pick. But Pinder has some real talent. He’s extremely athletic and between his great hands, smooth actions, and strong arm, he has the ability to be a plus defender at third base. His speed is solid and serves him well at third, but he is still learning how to swipe bases consistently. At the plate, Pinder, like Longoria a right-handed hitter, features bat speed not quite on par with Longoria, but he features good bat speed and features an inside-out swing that leads to plenty of line drives to right-center. His power looks to be average for a third baseman, maybe 20-25 home runs annually. Longoria has more power than Pinder looks to have, but he did hit just 22 home runs in 2010. Pinder has a similar skill-set, and if everything goes well, he has a chance to be Evan Longoria lite- featuring not quite as much power and pure hitting ability but still playing an excellent third base and doing a ton of different things well. If Pinder ever makes it to that level, he could be a good big league third baseman and a possible All-Star.
The big difference for Longoria from 2005 to 2006 was a complete turnaround in his plate discipline- he went from a 41-14 strikeout to walk ratio as a sophomore to a 29-40 strikeout to walk ratio as a junior- which allowed his power to come out more in earnest and turned him from a good player into a great one. Can Pinder make the same type of improvement this season if not to that extent? Only time will tell. But Pinder still looks to be a promising prospect and should be selected in the first two rounds of the 2013 MLB Draft. When that time does come, the team pulling the trigger on Pinder may just be the Rays.