Organization: Oakland Athletics || 2016 club: Stockton Ports (A-Adv.)
Position: 1B/DH || Age: 22 || DOB: September 12, 1994 || Birthplace: Santo Domingo, DR
Acquired: November 1, 2011 (int’l free agent) || 2016 prospect rank: None
2016 stats: 117 games, 417 AB, .237/.342/.436/.779, 18 2B, 21 HR, 60 BB, 145 K, 1 SB
- Pimentel’s 2016
He may have been just 21 years old in 2016, but Stockton Ports first baseman/designated hitter Sandber Pimentel took it on as his fifth professional summer—and the very first where the hulking hitter finally saw some home run power show up. Pimentel slugged 18 doubles and another 21 home runs with the Ports this year—the latter good for sixth-best in the Cal League—as the Oakland Athletics’ prospect drew attention not only for the balls he put over the fence, but how far he was hitting them.
As is so often the case with this type of game, though, Pimentel also found famine quite a bit this year; he struck out 145 times in 117 games, good (bad) enough to finish fourth in the Cal League, and he only ended up hitting .237 (99-for-417). Even in spite of the strikeouts, Pimentel did walk 60 times (also good enough for fourth in the Cal League) and finished with a .342 on-base percentage, both encouraging totals for his future as what will undoubtedly be a power hitter that must get on base to off-set high strikeouts. Proving he can be just patient enough at times, especially in his age-21 season, is without question a good sign.
In the field, Pimentel spent 83 games at first base for the Ports, splitting time with fellow slugger John Nogowski and then serving as a designated hitter nearly three dozen times, too. His future is undoubtedly as a first baseman (and a DH), as he’s too big, too slow, and not a good enough athlete to play even left field. There’s little question any role for him will involve splitting time in some fashion between first and designated hitter, and though he’s not flashy at first, he can stay above water there as his bat earns his keep.
- Scouting Pimentel
Listed at 6’3″, 220 lbs., Pimentel might well be both taller and heavier than that, and while he has a moderate-to-thick build already, he still has the ability to transform his body a little bit with improved, refined strength as he ages. His bread and butter is always going to be that size, though, and he knows exactly how to use it to his pull side at the plate.
Pimentel’s 2016 spray chart is more or less as you’d expect, including an interesting groundout pattern that leaves him a likely shift candidate for defenses moving forward, unless he proves he can adjust enough to keep them honest.
Obviously a cluster of ground balls to the right side isn’t surprising in and of itself; it’s what left-handed hitters do, especially young ones liable to roll over on pitches. And yet such a high concentration, coupled with his homer numbers and raw power, should tell you how radically he’s looking to pull the ball and how often he rolls over off-speed pitches in an effort to do that. Pimentel could have special power one day, and so he’s not type of player you admonish for rolling over on a few ground balls; it’s something that’s going to happen—an inevitable trade-off, if you will—as he hits more and more home runs.
But Pimentel can also self-correct some of that problem by better and more consistently staying through the ball in his swing and follow through. He’s strong enough now that he can pull off and muscle pitches out of the park, but his raw strength will not always overcome better command and better stuff from more talented pitchers at higher levels. He has the potential for such leverage and untapped bat speed that if he stays through pitches more consistently instead of rolling over and grounding out so often, he could flash even just a little bit of power to all fields and truly become a pitcher’s nightmare—and a hitter more difficult upon which to shift.
Mechanically, Pimentel starts slightly open to the pitcher before shifting his weight to his back leg quickly and fairly radically. From there, instead of a conventional stride or even a big, timed leg kick, Pimentel drives his body weight forward through the pitch in a somewhat unique way, almost like a pitcher driving to the plate upon release. That gives him great momentum to drive the ball, and his hands are fast enough and his swing short enough to react well; however, it also leaves him out on his front foot and liable to get extremely off balance when fooled with off-speed pitches.
- Going Forward
Pimentel doesn’t find himself on the Athletics’ top-30 prospects list, and yet he does that one thing which is very, very valuable: He hits the ball a very, very long ways. He did it more times in 2016 than he ever has before in his life, and against the best pitching he’s ever faced, so it might just be a sign that he’s well on the way to developing special power. Because of it, and as he’s about to enter a Double-A season in 2017 at just 22 years old, Pimentel might just be a first-baseman/designated hitter of the future in Oakland.
He may end up becoming some sort of a three-true-outcomes player a la Adam Dunn, but if a guy in that role can hit enough home runs and get on base just frequently enough, well, teams have proven content to live with the third not-so-good outcome in that triad, as they were with Dunn for years.
Pimentel would go a long way to solidifying his long-term future by showing off comparable power in Double-A next summer so he can have it on his résumé at a high minors outpost, and in a league other than the high-flying California circuit, but forget park factors and wind conditions: Sandber Pimentel can hit the ball really, really far, and he’s probably going to make good money to do that for quite some time.