Chad Pinder possesses some of baseball’s sneakiest power
The 2018 leaderboard for barrels per batted ball event (min. 50 batted balls) reads like a home run derby bracket, or maybe a list of baseball’s strongest men. That’s especially true for the first 17 names.
But at No. 18, right ahead of reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts, is Chad Pinder. At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Pinder isn’t a small dude. But he’s not Aaron Judge or Mike Trout or Luke Voit or even Pedro Alvarez, all names ahead of him. Pinder’s minor league career-high for single-season homers is 15- not exactly Ruthian.
Once you get past the surface, though, it’s that place on the barrels leaderboard that makes Pinder so alluring. Paired with defensive versatility, it’s how Pinder finds himself playing nearly every day for the Oakland Athletics. And it’s all of that put together that makes him a guy that each and every fantasy owner should want on their roster going forward.
Before we go any further, the first thing I noticed on Pinder’s baseball reference page had nothing to do with baseball: It was his full first name, Chadwick. Now that we’ve established that Pinder’s first name is actually Chadwick, it’s gonna be even more important to prove that his on-field contributions are worth having on your team.
Pinder’s swing makes him notable. In an era spawned partially by Jose Bautista, plenty of batters favor big leg kicks. A guy like Judge can get away with less, but players are trying to generate power any way they can. Look at the swing above. Pinder goes with the simple toe tap. That allows him to get to his real pop.
On contact, Pinder’s hips are exploding through the zone. His lower half is engaged. His wrists head directly toward the baseball. Then, on contact, he incorporates the key principle of the launch angle fad: lift. Hands need to travel to the ball to catch up with big league velocity. But then once there, they can move in any direction. Pinder’s create the backspin necessary to hit bombs.
That explains Pinder’s power, but not necessarily how he gets to the barrel so consistently. The barrel statistic itself relies on launch angle and exit velocity, along with consistently creating those things. His hands get the launch angle, and his core influences the exit velocity. Beyond that, he’s “just a hitter,” as Bob Melvin described him to mySA two seasons ago.
Pinder’s also a hitter who can play just about anywhere. This season alone, he’s spent time at first base, second base, third base and in the two corner outfield slots. He’s also contributed at shortstop and center field in his big league career. A player with that versatility doesn’t have to be a Gold Glover at any one spot. But if he can be serviceable and have a bat like Pinder’s, that’ll play.
Pinder has played in all but two games, with most coming as starts. He most likely already carried multi-position eligibility into this season from his appearances last year, and is only likely to add more as the season goes on. He’s valuable to Oakland because of that versatility, and he’s even more valuable to your fantasy team because his importance to Oakland will garner him playing time that can be used in a number of your lineup spots.
When considering writing about Pinder, I thought about comparing him to Ben Zobrist. An ability to play multiple spots gets him in the lineup every day, but other than that they’re really not that alike. Pinder rarely walks, a Zobrist staple, and the Athletic has way more power than Zobrist ever had. So maybe Pinder is this launch-angle generation’s Zobrist, a guy who can play almost anywhere and also consistently put the ball in the seats.
For multiple years, Oakland manager Bob Melvin has lamented that he’d like to be able to play Pinder every day to get his bat in the lineup. This season, it seems Melvin is finally finding ways to do just that. Your fantasy team should follow suit.