pitcher, Michael Pineda.
Or maybe you don’t remember seeing Pineda pitch in the Yankees pinstripes, and that is because he hasn’t yet.
But as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow founder and I remember drooling over Pineda during his 2011 rookie campaign with the Mariners.
Following that dazzling rookie season, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Pineda the fifth best pitcher under the age of 25 in MLB. And here is why:
“Pineda had an outstanding rookie year, boosted by a friendly ballpark and good defense, throwing primarily two pitches — a plus fastball and very sharp slider — although his velocity started to slide as the summer went on. He has the size and stuff to continue to pitch as he did in 2011, but improving his changeup, really a show-me offering with virtually no action on it right now, would help him get to ace level.”
The four names in front of the 6’7 righty on Law’s list was Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and Brett Anderson. Talk about a top five list any pitcher would love to be on.
What was behind Pineda’s success in 2011?
Pineda threw a wicked slider with a sharp, downward break that is down right nasty. He also features a low to mid 90’s four and two-seam fastball that clocks as high as 96 mph.
I took notice instant notice of Pineda in early May of 2011 when I wrote, Keeping this Seattle Prince on your radar before the Yankees acquired him. So, I have obviously ridden this bandwagon for sometime now and I recommend all fans to jump on too, as I am not getting off just yet.
What was most impressive is by the end of his one and only season, Pineda finished with the third highest strikeout percentage in MLB, fanning 24.9% of the batters he faced. But that is now two-years behind him and it is time for Pineda to try once again.
Since that lofty rookie season, Pineda has endured a numerous shoulder injuries that eventually required surgery; and this has kept him sidelined for the last two seasons.
But luckily he is young enough to get back on track, and if Pineda comes into the 2014 season in 2011 form, the Yankees rotation will be tops in the AL.
Imagine what it could do for the 2014 Yankees, if Pineda is healthy and throwing heat again?
It would make the Yankees a pitching force, as Pineda was that good.
Of course other things need to pan out, like CC Sabathia getting back to as close to an ace as possible; Hiroki Kuroda remaining Hiroki Kuroda; and of course the smoothest transition of the Yankees newest toy, Masahiro Tanaka would be ideal too.
Still, I believe that nothing would impact the Yankees as much as Pineda could this coming season.
The only worry I have is not pitching problem, but a Big Apple one.
See Pineda is not used to the ruthless New York media, and that he looked noticeably overwhelmed during Spring Training down in Tampa is what makes this concerning. The Yankees have better help Pineda get comfortable quickly, or else mentally he could break down from non-baseball related pressure.
Bottom line is good luck finding an MLB team that wouldn’t want a young pitcher with the stuff you drool over like Pineda is capable of their five-man rotation.