By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Michael Pineda, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees
2011 season (with Seattle): 9-10, 171 IP, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 173 K, 55 BB
Standing at 6-foot-7 and reportedly coming into camp at 280 pounds, Pineda has already drawn comparisons to CC Sabathia. That’s obviously unfair, but it is easy to understand why Yankees players and coaches have already heaped praise on the team’s new hurler. Armed with a mid-nineties fastball, a swing-and-miss slider and a changeup that he is still working on, Pineda put together a spectacular rookie season with the Mariners that earned him a spot in the All-Star Game. It also convinced the Yankees to trade one of their most-hyped prospects ever, Jesus Montero, in order to acquire him.
Pineda was not without his struggles, however, as he became susceptible to the home run and posted a 5.12 ERA in the second half. Still, he struck out more than a batter an inning and kept the walks in check during that time – positive signs that suggest he just suffered from back luck, rather than the league catching up to him. Pitching in the AL East will be more difficult than the West, but Pineda has the ability to dominate hitters, which nobody besides Sabathia could claim in last year’s rotation.
Though the Yankees gave up an elite prospect in Montero, they got back another scarce type of player: a young pitcher who has already succeeded at the Major League level. The franchise will control him for five years, during which time he will be cheap – even the Yankees care about frugality, as they have demonstrated this offseason – and has the potential to develop into a true No. 1 starter. As it stands right now, he might already be the Bombers’ second-best hurler.
The pressure of New York will be applied to Pineda, especially if Montero mashes for the Mariners, but he’s got the talent to meet expectations. Because of trade for Pineda and the signing of Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees have a problem that they seemingly haven’t had in years: too much pitching. With the reigns being taken off this season after the M’s limited his innings last year, Pineda has a chance to be one of the best starters in the American League.
Next up on March 2: Boston Red Sox