Over the last few years, the Yankees organization has emerged as one of the best system for producing relievers. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves, and a number of others have all been products of Yankee scouting and development. The big relief prospect at the moment is Mark Montgomery, who will probably see the Major Leagues by the end of 2013. There are a number of other relievers, such as Tom Kahnle and Nick Goody who could be fast movers, but Branden Pinder is one of the biggest names to watch this Spring Training.
The Yankees drafted the right-hander in the 16th round of the 2011 draft as a starting pitcher. In the move to the bullpen, Pinder’s velocity increased from low-90’s to mid-90’s, and he’s currently topping out at 97 mph. His slider also vastly improved during the 2011 season, and some scouts called it a major league ready pitch.
Through low-A in 2011, Pinder pitched 31.0 innings with a remarkable 0.677 WHIP and a 1.16 ERA. He wasn’t as successful in the jump to High-A, but still pitched 69.0 innings with a 2.79 ERA. His numbers, at face value, suggest that he lost some of his highly regarded control, however the splits show that most of his walks came against left-handed hitters. Against lefties, Pinder holds a 12.4 BB%, but against righties he’s throwing a 4.9 BB%. Considering the number of intentional walks, and the rate at which lefties hit him in 2012, there’s no surprise that his walk rates were so high.
Pinder will likely start the season in Double-A in 2013, where he finished in 2012 with 1.1 scoreless innings. If he can solve his problems against left-handed hitters, it looks like Pinder will someday see the major leagues. Yesterday, we got to watch his fastball and slider in action, and he displayed some tremendous movement and control.
Pinder has only thrown two innings thus far, but the way he’s pitching, we might see a lot more of him. With the type of depth the Yankees have in the major league bullpen, he has very little chance to make the team, but he should continue to follow Montgomery around the system as his setup man.