Right hander Stolmy Pimentel is tearing up the Eastern League and gaining attention based on his hot start.
Pimentel showed that he is human in his last start when he allowed two earned runs over six innings against Erie. That effort caused his ERA to more than double from 0.30 to 0.74. The 23-year-old is now hearing his name alongside those of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon as the best of the talented minor league crop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates acquired Pimentel along with three others from the Boston Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan trade last Winter after a lackluster career in the Boston organization. Pimentel has been highly regarded for his talent, but has never seen the results that match his projected ceiling. Pimentel’s inclusion in the deal with Pittsburgh was probably more Boston giving up on him than anything else.
After going 6-16 in 37 starts for Double-A Portland between the 2011-12 seasons, it’s not difficult to imagine why a change of scenery may have been considered the best option for all parties involved. Stolmy posted a 5.96 ERA in those starts.
So far in six start with Altoona, Pimentel is sitting at 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA and he’s allowed just 24 hits and a mere two home runs this year (both of those came in his last start).
Is he finally pitching up to his talent? Was moving to a new organization all he needed to right the ship?
The first thing to realize is that Pimentel, like any pitcher who gets off to this kind of start, will regress. No one is going to go through a season with as much ease as he has in the first five weeks. eventually, you’ll give up some hits and give up some runs. The real question isn’t whether or not he’ll regress, it’s how much he’ll regress when he does.
Looking at some key numbers, there is reason to think that Pimentel will fall a long way when he comes crashing back to Earth.
Pimentel’s strikeout rate has been good at nearly eight batter per nine innings, which is significantly ahead of where he had been over the past two seasons, though in line with the numbers he posted in the lower minors. He’s walking too many hitters (3.96 per 9), but he’s getting away with it thanks both to the solid K rate, but also by yielding so few base hits. That combination has lead to an amazing 99.5 percent strand rate.
Sooner or later, Pimentel’s BABIP allowed will come up for a very low .234. Typically speaking, the average on balls in play is something close to .300, so even if Pimentel’s BABIP comes up to a still-low .275, he’ll be allowing a lot more hits. Those hits, combined with the walks, will mean far fewer runners stranded and far more runs allowed.
There certainly are some encouraging results for Pimentel this season and chances are that he is making some real improvements. Thus far, his peripherals have suggested a FIP of 3.56, which is very solid and significantly better than he’s done in years past. Part of the improvement can be attributed to being in his third go-around at Double-A and part can probably be attributed to the natural maturation of a talented ball player.
But very few of the eye-popping numbers he’s produced in 2013 are sustainable and Pimentel, while improved, ultimately remains a fringe prospect.