Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pineda for Montero Breakdown

Welp... this was unexpected, to say the least. After the Yankees swung and missed on Felix Hernandez, offering a pu pu platter of top prospects, they "settled" on the other young fireballer from Safeco in Michael Pineda. Of course, they were required to include their own blue-chip prospect, Jesus Montero, but they come out of this deal looking like winners. The other pieces in the deal, Hector Noesi to Seattle and Jorge Campos to New York, are nothing to be forgotten about but the main focus is on the two top pieces in the deal.

 I can never love you again...

Pineda is a physical specimen, standing in at 6'5 and 245 pounds. He is almost primarily a FB, SL pitcher using those two pitches a combined 94% of the time. His CH is still a work in progress and probably a necessary weapon to reduce his fly ball rate as he moves from the best pitchers' ballpark in baseball to a New York launching pad. Pineda is a pitcher who relies on his velocity and movement more than sink to get outs. The large confines of Safeco field definitely help a pitcher who allowed a HR/FB of 9.0 and a GB/FB of .81. According to FanGraphs, the league average for HR/FB percentage in a given year is 10.6, but this year it was 9.5, showing he gets a large number of outs in the air. While that may be a good strategy in Seattle, it's one that will lend him to a little more trouble this year. However, he has shown to possess way above average stuff which will keep balls out of play or induce weaker contact. Including last year at the major league level, Pineda has never averaged less than 9.0 K/9 since 2008, his minor league rookie season. Keeping the ball out of play is a great indicator of success and he also does well in keeping the free passes down. His K/BB was 3.15 against major league competition last year and never below 4.0 in the minors. He definitely demonstrated good command for a young pitcher.

After performing beyond expectations prior to the All Star break, Pineda did fall back to Earth in the second half. His innings have increased at a normal rate since he was brought into the Seattle system, but he did make a jump from around 130 innings to 171. With any young pitcher, you must be concerned about the potential for injury. However, Pineda's size and safe handling being brought through the Mariners' system point towards him maintaining his health and success. While there are certainly concerns in trading for a young arm, the Yankees did their best to secure one that was not thought to even be on the market. As long as his arm holds up, he looks to be the perennial number 2 starter for the Yankees, offering plenty of innings and strikeouts as their offense provides him with more wins than Seattle could promise. 

In 2015, this may be the last evidence of Montero as a catcher

As for the Mariners, they received one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball. This would be considered a nice win in a vacuum but it looks as if Montero might be a bat without a position. With first base occupied by Justin Smoak and Mike Carp, to a lesser extent, the Mariners are forced to make a tough decision with Montero. In his time behind the plate in the Yankees system, scouts have come to a consensus that his future is not there. While they might be more optimistic than I, it will be a tough sell to keep Montero at catcher if all hell breaks loose when he tries to block a ball in the dirt. He is a stiff receiver and doesn't show the requisite athletic ability to shift his feet and consistently block balls in the dirt or throw out base stealers at the major league level. He seems destined to man first base or even just be relegated to full-time DH duties for the Mariners. 

However, the reason that Montero is so highly regarded is because of his offensive abilities. He has a fluid swing and is very adept at controlling the strike zone, something he has proven at every level. Presently, he provides fantastic contact with a high OBP due to his patience and plenty of present power. As he continues to mature, his power could provide a few 30 HR seasons. He generates plenty of hard contact with good loft in his swing, leading to a high percentage of line drives and fly balls, something that plays into his power potential. In his prime, we could be looking at a .280/.375/.480 with 30 HR. 

So while Seattle receives one of the few MLB ready sluggers that the minors have to offer, New York grabbed a proven young starter with a big arm. Gotta think that the return for the Yankees will help them more in the present, but this also clears up money for the Mariners when Felix's contract runs up. Not having to pay Pineda big arbitration numbers certainly leaves space to extend their ace within their budget. I think that New York "wins" this deal because it fills a present need with a player that should be there for the long haul. Why Seattle wanted to trade Pineda now is curious from a talent standpoint, but they do add to their lineup a player that should be able to anchor an offense. The fact that Montero likely doesn't have a position pushes this towards a "win" for New York. 


  1. Good writing...although I don't really know any of these players :(

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