Aaron Pribanic has had an up and down year this year. The right hander, originally acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade, has put up a 4.03 ERA in 111.2 innings this year. He started off strong, with a 2.29 ERA in 59 innings over the first two months of the season with Altoona, spanning 11 appearances and 10 starts. Pribanic looked like a guy who could be in line for a call-up to the AAA level. Then, in the month of June, Pribanic fell apart.
In 22.2 innings, spanning five starts, Pribanic put up an 8.74 ERA. In his first three starts of July, Pribanic combined to allow 11 runs in 17 innings. He has since rebounded in his last two starts, allowing two runs in 13 innings. He went from looking great in the first two months of the season, to looking awful in the majority of his next eight starts. So which one is the real Pribanic?
A big issue with the sinker ball pitcher is his strikeouts. Pribanic has never been a big strikeout pitcher. He’s more of a pitch to contact guy, working off of his sinker and good control. In 111.2 innings this year, he’s only allowed 19 walks, but he’s also only struck out 50 batters. That’s been the story throughout his career. In 2010 he had a 71:33 K/BB ratio in 154 innings. In 2009 it was a 72:31 K/BB ratio in 124.2 innings. In April/May of this year, he had a 23:5 K/BB ratio in 59 innings. In June/July it’s been a 27:14 K/BB ratio in 52.2 innings.
Pribanic was so good in April/May because he wasn’t allowing a lot of hits. He allowed 55 hits in 59 innings. In June, he allowed 37 hits in 22.2 innings. This month he’s allowed 34 hits in 30 innings. Unfortunately, that’s a risk that pitch to contact pitchers take. They will go through stretches where they don’t give up many hits, and they will also go through stretches where they give up too many hits. Pribanic profiles as a back of the rotation starter, or a strong middle reliever because of this, and unless he can get more strikeouts, and stop relying on his defense as much, that projection won’t change.