With the pitching depth of the Pittsburgh Pirates it is easy to write off certain players before they’ve truly been given a chance to showcase what they can do. Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel falls into this category.
Since coming over to the Pirates from the Boston Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan trade before the 2013 season, Pimentel has logged just 25 appearances, all in relief. While Mark Melancon has been the crown jewel of the trade haul, Pimentel has the potential to make the deal even brighter for the Pirates. The only question is, how long can the Pirates afford to wait for him to realize that potential?
Pimentel entered last season out of options and with the exception of a late season stint on the DL, the Pirates were able to keep him on the roster and use him almost exclusively in long relief and low-pressure situations. Justin Broyles of RantSports noted in a article earlier this week that the Pirates may no longer be able to hold onto Pimentel and as the odd man out, Broyles suggested Pimentel be dealt for “whatever they can get.”
The issue here is this isn’t fantasy baseball and Pimentel is out of options and can no longer be considered a prospect. The value of Pimentel is low as any organization would recognize the Pirates attempt to shop Pimentel is due to their only other option being to attempt to pass him through waivers and Pimentel is all, but guaranteed to be claimed. Any team will happily take a flier on a pitcher who can hit 97mph on the gun and will only be 25-years-old by the time pitchers and catchers report next month.
It was June 28th of last season when Pimentel showcased the type of pitcher they feel he can be. In a game against the Mets, Gerrit Cole struggled early and surrendered five runs over four innings and was removed from the game. Enter Pimentel. Pimentel would go on to pitch four dominating innings en route to seven strikeouts while surrendering no runs on two hits and just one walk. On this particular afternoon, Pimentel’s fastball reached 97mph, a sharp breaking slider reached 89mph and his “off-speed” pitch hit 90mph.
The common concern about Pimentel seems to be regarding his control. In his small sample size of 42 big league innings, Pimentel has walked 18 batters for an average of 3.9 walks per 9 innings. However, Pimentel has also 47 strikeouts for an average of 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. There is no denying the pedigree that Pimentel possesses. Former Pirates lefty Oliver Perez featured a similar make-up and has posted a career BB/9 of 4.7. Perez has had some bumps in the road, but most recently has settled in as a coveted left-handed relief with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The youth and inexperience is Pimentel’s worst enemy as he attempts to stick with the 2015 club. A point can be made that the Pirates are a team in serious contention after back-t0-back post-season appearances and cannot afford to occupy a roster spot with an unknown commodity while they wait to evaluate how high Pimentel’s ceiling really goes.
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If Pimentel can continue to show progression, there should be no reason the Pirates do not make every attempt possible to keep him in the mix. Jeff Locke or Vance Worley should be marketed to other teams in need of pitching before an attempt is made to unload Pimentel for what would ultimately be nothing. Locke, a former All-Star and Worley who showed his ability to be a consistent back of the rotation starter would net far more value in a trade and neither’s potential is as high as Pimentel’s who could ultimately be a top of the rotation starter if patience is given.
For the Pirates being a team on the rise with a farm system stocked with ripe prospects, the damage from pushing Pimentel out the door could be much worse than the inconvenience of finding a roster spot for him. The Pirates should do everything possible to let Pimentel grow into the pitcher they hoped he would be when they acquired him. If not, we will soon be watching him in awe and saying to each other “Hey, didn’t he used to be a Pirate?”