Stolmy Pimentel is off to a great start with the Altoona Curve this season. After throwing six shutout innings today, the right-hander has a 0.39 ERA in 23.1 innings, with a 23:13 K/BB ratio and just 13 hits allowed for a .160 BAA. I saw Pimentel a lot during Spring Training, and talked about how there’s no reason he shouldn’t be dominating Double-A with his stuff. That hasn’t been the case in previous years. Last year he had a 4.59 ERA in 115.2 innings. The year before that he had a 9.12 ERA in 50.1 innings. So far this year he’s pitching to his talent level, and that level might be above Double-A.
“He’s got stuff. He’s got more stuff than I thought he did,” Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway said. “He’s got better stuff than that league right now.”
John Eshleman did a video breakdown of Pimentel earlier this week, looking at his start from last Thursday. We haven’t seen Pimentel live since Spring Training, so I wanted to talk to some people who have seen him. Fortunately Larry Broadway and Pirates Minor League Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell were both in Bradenton this week. Broadway saw Pimentel live, while Mitchell saw video and received reports of the early season starts.
The key for any pitcher is going to be fastball command. That’s something the Pirates stress — not only pitching off your fastball, but pitching inside. The Pirates have been working with Pimentel on his aggressiveness, and getting him to trust the fastball. Pimentel has a tendency to use his off-speed stuff too often, and the Pirates want him trusting the fastball more and pitching off that.
“It’s just getting him acclimated to our philosophy,” Mitchell said. “We pitch heavy with the fastball. We trust our fastball. We like to pitch in with our fastball. Getting him from another organization, it takes a little time to work through that. But he’s starting to see the fruits of his labor, and [Altoona pitching coach Stan Kyles] is doing a good job to get him acclimated to that.”
John Eshleman noted in the previously linked video breakdown that Pimentel was throwing his fastball inside a lot, and was doing a good job of being aggressive with the pitch.
One thing that stood out to me this Spring was Pimentel’s slider. He added the pitch last year, switching over from a curveball. Looking at the monthly numbers, you could see an improvement in the second half of the season with his ERA and strikeout rate. That’s not a surprise, since it looked like a pretty dominant out pitch this Spring.
May – 25.1 IP, 5.33 ERA, 14.3% K/PA
June – 25.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 11.0% K/PA
July – 26.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 22.0% K/PA
August – 27.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 17.7% K/PA
“The slider is really coming along compared to what I had heard with him coming over to the organization,” Broadway said. “And then what I saw in Spring Training, that’s gotten better. Continue to work on command things, and just attacking hitters with his weapons, but stuff-wise, it’s good.”
Broadway also called the slider a plus offering, and said Pimentel had some good feel for the pitch after throwing it for only a year.
“It’s a much better pitch than what I saw on video in the past of his curveball,” Mitchell said. “A lot of manipulation with his curveball. This slider is more of an aggressive pitch. So it goes hand in hand with him being more aggressive with his fastball. He’s maintaining the slot with it. It was a good move by them to make that switch, and glad to see that he’s continuing to trust that as well.”
So far this season, Pimentel has an 8.9 K/9 ratio. That’s the highest of his career, and the first time he’s been over an 8.0 since 2008 in the NYPL. One issue for Pimentel is going to be his control problems. He walked five in six innings today. That 5.0 BB/9 ratio is also the highest of his career, and two walks per nine higher than his career average. But it’s also worth noting that the Pirates have him relying on his fastball more, and focusing on throwing inside. It’s also important to remember that he’s only been throwing the slider for a year, so the command isn’t fully there. As he gets more comfortable with each of those things, the walk numbers could come back down.
I think it’s almost inevitable that Pimentel will reach Triple-A this season. He’s got one option remaining, and needs to be in the majors full time next year. He’s not really seeing a challenge in Altoona, but that could be a good thing, as it provides a comfortable setting for him to work on pitching off his fastball and commanding the slider a little better. With his stuff, he can get away with mistakes at the Double-A level. Once his control improves, he’ll only have to worry about whether his stuff is good enough for Triple-A and the majors. Based on what I’ve seen this year, and all of the reports I’ve received, I don’t think his stuff will be an issue when he eventually moves up.