Stolmy Pimentel Looks Like a Favorite For the Opening Day Roster

Stolmy Pimentel has a good chance to make the Opening Day roster. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Stolmy Pimentel has a good chance to make the Opening Day roster. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

As someone who reads Sox Prospects (I partially modeled this site after theirs), I was familiar with Stolmy Pimentel before he was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan trade last off-season. He was on the prospect radar early, and was one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox system for a few years. Then he struggled during the 2012 season, which helped to make him available for the Pirates to acquire last year.

I didn’t get a chance to see Pimentel until about a year ago, early in Spring Training. I saw him throw in the Black and Gold game that kicked off the Spring Training schedule, and was very impressed. His fastball had a lot of velocity, his slider looked sharp, and he basically looked like the top prospect he once was, and not a guy whose stock had fallen. I wasn’t the only one who was surprised.

“I was [surprised], because I hadn’t seen him throw before that,” Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage said about seeing Pimentel for the first time. “And when he did come out and pitch for us a couple times, I thought ‘good gosh man, we got something here’.”

As I saw Pimentel more and more in minor league camp, I grew more impressed by him. By the end of camp, I was predicting success during the 2013 season, based on the stuff I saw. Pimentel did have success, combining for a 3.35 ERA in 169.1 innings between Altoona and Indianapolis, and having success in a short appearance in the majors at the end of the year.

“When we gave him the ball last year, he competed,” Searage said. “He was able to throw his pitches for strikes. He’s got an exceptional fastball. What we want to try to do is make sure he keeps his leverage and the angle to his fastball, because sometimes he’ll have the tendency to collapse a little bit.”

Pimentel has dealt with some control problems in the past. That was a big issue in his time with Boston. He had a 4.1 BB/9 ratio in his jump to Double-A. He maintained that same ratio in Altoona at the start of the season. But Pimentel’s control problems subsided in Triple-A (2.1 BB/9 in 92 innings) and weren’t around in his brief time in the majors.

“The player development guys did a tremendous work on slowing him down, whereas before he was going 100 miles per hour standing still,” Searage said of the difference. “But now his delivery is more under control, and then letting his fastball and his arm speed take care of the rest. And the way he competed last year was very promising, and hopefully good things will happen for him.”

“I feel better about the fastball control,” Pimentel said. “It’s something you’ve got to be working on everyday. On the flat ground. In the bullpen. You have to keep working and keep working, get better and get better. When you can have the velocity and you can have the command, everything comes easy. The hitter will be thinking a lot.”

The addition of control is a huge weapon for Pimentel. Last year he was sitting mid-90s with his fastball. His fastball averaged 95.4 MPH, which was fourth best on the team behind Duke Welker, Gerrit Cole, and Vic Black. He was topping out at 98 MPH throughout the year, and hitting that more often in relief. He also was working on a slider in his final year in the Boston system, and saw the pitch turn into a plus offering with the Pirates.

“It’s feeling pretty good. I feel a lot of confidence with the slider,” Pimentel said of the pitch, noting that he’s comfortable using it in all counts.

Pimentel also throws a changeup, which he’s getting more comfortable with, and a two-seam fastball, which is a pitch the Pirates love. He didn’t get a lot of ground balls in the majors, but had a 47.67% ratio in the minor leagues last year.

He’s got a four pitch mix, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider that is an out pitch. He generates ground balls, and has seen improved control. Pimentel has everything you’d want to give him a shot at being a starter.

“We have a handful of guys that we’re definitely going to work to that three innings, 50 pitch mark, and then see how camp develops for them and for others,” Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said. “And then maybe adjust accordingly. We do, in the big picture, still envision him as a starter. A guy that can go to the bullpen as need be. He’s out of options. So we know what’s at stake there. And we did like what we were able to get from him last year. He got to pitch in some competitive games. He got that experience that really can help a young player coming into his next season.”

The problem with Pimentel being a starter is that the Pirates’ rotation looks crowded. Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all have guaranteed spots. Edinson Volquez wasn’t given $5 M to be a reliever, and as long as Wandy Rodriguez is healthy, he will be in the rotation. That means that Pimentel will likely start in the bullpen. This is assuming he makes the Opening Day roster and doesn’t get exposed to waivers, although I don’t see that happening, since everyone I’ve spoken with has been excited about what Pimentel brings to the team.

If he doesn’t make the rotation, Pimentel could be this year’s version of Jeanmar Gomez, who Ray Searage called last year’s “unsung hero”. Gomez pitched in many roles, including several starts and several appearances in long relief. He also pitched a few times in short relief, doing well in each role. Pimentel could play the same part, only with much better stuff than Gomez. That could mean that he will start off in the bullpen, with a good chance to crack the rotation early in the season if there is an injury or someone struggles early.

Looking beyond the 2014 season, Pimentel might have a better chance of cracking the rotation, especially if he puts up a strong season this year. But he needs to make the major league team first. That’s not exactly a guarantee, since there are eight relievers for seven spots right now. Of the four relievers who are out of options, I think he has an inside track, and a strong chance to make the majors.

“He’s a very exciting young man to watch, and obviously we like the makeup, we like the skills, and he’s going to have every opportunity to have the camp that he wants to have and to break with the club,” Hurdle said.

 

“You have to be ready. You just have to do your job,” Pimentel said about his chances of making the team. “As soon as they see you can do your job, they have to make a decision. I can’t control that. I’m just going to keep working on what I can control. I hope to make it. I’ve been working hard for that, so I just need to come ready and show what I’ve got.”

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Jeff

    Is Gomez the odd man out coming out of Spring training?
    Maybe a trade chip?
    I get the feeling Pimental has inside track of making final 25.

  • elgaupo

    Tim who are the other out of option guys?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      Mazzaro, Gomez, and Morris. Andy Oliver is also out of options, but I don’t group him in with those guys.

      • Jeff

        Tim,
        Would Morris get the nod over the other 2, unless he completely falls off this spring?

        • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

          I hate thinking this, but in the back of my mind, I often think the only reason Morris is still on this squad is so that Neal can claim he still has one asset left from the Bay trade.

          At least when Melancon had his issues, he was still keeping the ball low and away. Morris left more than his share of meatballs out there for a guy who’s supposed to live at the knees.

          Given Wandy and Edinson are still questions, wouldn’t hurt to have two swingmen on call. And it’s not like Neal to pay the arb equivalent to Mazzaro if he doesn’t intend to use him.

  • jon6er

    This is what small market baseball is about. A strong farm system with good young prospects able to compete. I’m excited about the pitching staff and the mix of experience and good young arms competing in spring training. There is still time and money to get a first baseman but I’m totally comfortable starting the season with a Lambo/Sanchez platoon and still be competitive the first half. Then if you still haven’t spent that AJ money you can make a mid season move to shore up for the second half. In fact the only disappointment I have is picking Stewart up and having Tony Sanchez spend ( waste ) another year at Indy. Every game he played with Pittsburgh last year he represented himself as being a major league catcher and I still believe he would start for many mlb teams right now. I have no doubt about Chris Stewart defensively but I will be surprised and pleasantly so if he hits at all. It’s an unusual feeling to come into the last couple spring trainings with a feeling that you have a team to compete and solid competition in camp for opening day roster spots.

    • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

      Defense and pitching is, as been noted on these pages recently, of paramount importance. Much as I personally liked him McKenry was a starting gun for opposing base stealers. Also with Mercer the everyday shortstop we can carry his weak stick once or twice a week at the bottom of the order.

      I have this hunch that Sanchez’s slow development (not all his fault, mostly due to two bad injuries) has caused him to lose his luster with the FO. I see a stopgap FA catcher being signed in 15, until McGuire arrives, hopefully in 16.

      • https://www.facebook.com/nate.james.125 Nate James

        Are yOu saying Mercer is a weak bat? I think you mean Barmes. Mercer has a good bat! He is average to below on defense but his offense is a welcome sight. I think he will have a strong sophomore season!

        • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

          I did mean Mercer has a better bat and we can afford to carry a weaker bat, not like most of 12 when it was Barajas, Barmes and the pitcher for a guaranteed 8 outs in 9 PAs almost every game.

      • buster09

        You will be seeing Sanchez next seaso as the starter,if not before. That would occur if Martin is injured for any length of time. Why do you think it would do any good for Tony Sanchez,or any other prospect for that matter,to be sitting in Pittsburgh playing once a week ? It would surprise the heck out of me to see Reese McGuire in Pittsburgh before 2017.

      • SteveW

        If Martin leaves after this year, it is a 100% certainty that Sanchez (assuming he is healthy) will be the starting catcher in 2015. If Martin were to get hurt, Sanchez would immediately become the starting catcher this year. He had a great offensive year at AAA last year and a good defensive one. As for McGuire, he is not arriving before 2017. If Sanchez plays well, then possibly not until 2018.

    • Cato the Elder

      Stewart was signed to be a backup catcher seemingly so Sanchez to get regular playing time – spending an entire year as a back up would quite possibly stunt Sanchez’s development. I wouldn’t read too much more into it than that. Assuming Martin signs elsewhere as a FA, Sanchez will have every opportunity to earn the starting catcher job for ’15

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Just keep those young guns coming. Not all will succeed, but the more you have, the more likely you’ll get enough to fill out a solid rotation.

  • http://hiddenvigorish.com Hidden Vigorish

    I’m pretty certain Stolmy will make the club. Most likely as a reliever. The problem is he has little margin for error. If he runs into some struggles during the season there isn’t much they can do other than DFA him and hope he goes unclaimed. Being a quality club with higher expectations creates new challenges. Talented players aren’t going to have the same leash as in the past.

  • The Masked robshelb

    .

    What a wonderful article about Stolmy. Thank you Tim Williams. Buccos’ baseball reporting at its best !!!

    Mr. Searage says “we’ve got something [special] here” and Mr. Hurdle says they envision him as a starter. And Pimentel *is* still only 24 years old.

    Go Stolmy !!!!

    So . . . Once we sign Ubaldo to a three year contract (mandatory move *right now* , imo), then we could kick off the 2014 season with a Starting Rotation that looks something like this –

    Liriano
    Cole
    Jimenez
    Morton
    Pimentel

    Now that seems to be a strong rotation, top to bottom, of which we all could be quite proud.

    And then when JT gets the inevitable call to The Bigs, we could even go with a six-man rotation if we wanted to. Save some arm strength that way for the stretch run. (No dead-arm September’s for us, not ever again, darn it. )

    **Text Message to the St. Louis Cardinals.** Stolmy and Ubaldo are (or will be) in the building. You guys better watch out !!!

    .

    • The Masked robshelb

      .

      I did hear from Stolmy that his Entrance Interview was quite brief. Mr. Hurdle sat him down and asked him only one question — “Would you rather have your locker next to Mr. Liriano or Mr. Cole ??”

      Stolmy told me that he was expecting the interview to last longer than 30 seconds, but he said that he took it as a good sign/omen, nonetheless.

      .

    • https://www.facebook.com/nate.james.125 Nate James

      if you think we are signing ubaldo…. You crazy!

      • buster09

        I second that emotion Nate !

      • emjayinTN

        Yep, let me add my agreement that we will not sign Ubaldo, at least not before the Draft. The Rotation this fandom needs to get used to will be Cole, Taillon, Morton, Pimental, and Locke. That could be there as early as June, or August, or right out of ST in 2015. Pimental right now has more going for him than JMAC had going into 2014 – if that does not say how good the Pirates pitching is, nothing does. There are a lot of guys not mentioned, and that is why I see the phone of NH being very busy during ST. I want whoever we trade to go to the AL, so that means Texas, Seattle, or our buddies, the NY Yankees.

    • skliesen

      You may not like it, but Volquez is a Starter in the rotation. There’s not one chance in a million they are in running for Jiminez, or any other FA SP at this point in time.

    • scrappy2499

      Sorry went to Baltimore

  • dr dng

    Stolmy, Gomez, Mazzaro, Morris & Andy Oliver.

    Like ‘em all.

    Need to make the best decision to keep them,
    if not look for talent for the future in a trade.

    I think teams know what the Pirates have and
    will be looking to scoop up any pitchers we
    expose to waivers.

  • leadoff

    The Pirates need 10-12 starters to make it through a season so I would expect that the guys that are out of options will stick as long as they do okay and whomever they can send back and keep they will do. I don’t think the 5 man rotation is something that we can assume at this time as well as the pen.
    Trades could very well happen, but they won’t be made out of dire need.

    • Cato the Elder

      The dire need in this instance is the impending roster crunch.

  • glassers

    Nice article Tim , a lot of good information on Stolmy some of which I was unaware of .

  • CalipariFan506

    I think the easiest solution to this crunch is just putting Locke in AAA.

    Liriano
    Cole
    Morton
    Volquez
    Rodriguez

    Pimentel
    Gomez
    Watson
    Wilson
    Mazzaro/Morris
    Melancon
    Grilli

    Then you’d have to DFA Mazarro or Morris but with Welker lying in the weeds, that isn’t as big of a deal. And this is all assuming nobody is on the DL by opening day and that is probably doubtful.