This year's draft seems remarkably weak when it comes to college hitting, which makes it sort of a surprise when you begin to realize how many quality third basemen are out there, lurking. You've got Kris Bryant, Colin Moran, and the prodigious-yet-mysterious bat of DJ Peterson. You've also got Notre Dame's Eric Jagielo and Youngstown State's Drew Dosch in the mix.
One of the slights against all of these guys is their defense. None of them appear destined to stay at the hot corner. Which is what makes Virginia Tech's Chad Pinder all the more promising.
Think of the 6'2", 195-pound Pinder (who, by the way, is the son of former Giants farmhand Christopher Pinder) as the Matt Dominguez of college third basemen - he may be a little lacking offensively, but certainly not bad enough that he can't play every day in the major leagues. But what he lacks at the plate, he makes up for with a slick glove, a strong and accurate arm, a healthy amount of speed, and good old-fashioned hustle.
Let's start with the traditional question about Pinder: His offense. In a very tough ACC, Pinder hit .317/.368/.510 as a freshman in 2011. He followed that up with a .263/.392/.421 showing in the Coastal Plain League. Then, in his sophomore season in 2012, he slashed .325/.380/.538 at Virginia Tech before heading to the Cape Cod League, where he went .278/.345/.532 despite playing with a hernia. That sophomore season, by the way, saw him 19th in the NCAA in doubles (22) and 12th in doubles per game (0.42). So the power is there - through two collegiate seasons, he has an ISO of .206.
What concerns me is his plate discipline. His high average and OBP in 2012 were aided by two things: First, 7 HBPs. Second, a .371 BABIP. That's where his speed comes into play. Pinder isn't a big base stealer, going 10-for-16 so far through his college career, but he is surprisingly quick, and there's room for improvement there, as well. He's unlikely to transform into Delino Deshields, Junior, but he can take an extra base and often beat out a throw from most college third basemen.
What his OBP isn't aided by is his 5.9% walk rate - and that is a legitimate concern moving forward.
His defense is less in question. It has inspired comparisons to Evan Longoria, who also played third for Chatham in the Cape Cod League. Though that comp is ambitious, it's not completely out of the question. What's clearer is that he's one of the best defensive third basemen in the draft.
With Pinder's ability to hit for average and for power, his speed, and his outstanding arm strength and accuracy, he's certainly a prospect to watch.
Update: Pinder saw a 30-point jump in OBP from 2012 to this year. In addition to a moderate uptick in walk rate (5.9% to 7.8%), his HBPs jumped from 7 to 12. His strikeout rate also dropped four percentage points (17.6% to 13.6%). His BABIP has remained extremely consistent at .361. Unfortunately, despite matching his home run total, his slugging fell as a result of a wildly-decreased doubles rate. His glove was still solid, though, as he even started several games at shortstop.
Pinder could have a difficult road to the majors; his floor is pretty low, given the questions about his offense. The guy that comes to mind for me is Freddy Galvis -- someone who may primarily be used as a late-inning defensive replacement, maybe moving around the diamond.
Mike Moustakas. Again, this may be ambitious, but it seems like a reasonable comp to me, at least based on Moustakas's 2012 season: Bad walk rates, decent-but-not-elite power, valuable defense.
Update: Moustakas is almost certainly ambitious, given the power drop that Pinder had this season. The good news is that he was able to pick things up in the conference tournament, and at times he's shown those flashes of power. The lack of consistency is troubling, though, and it's possible his ceiling is closer to Moustakas' old high school teammate, Matt Dominguez.
Projected Draft Round
Pinder isn't a first-round candidate, unless something drastic were to change. He'll likely be available in round 3-5.
Will He Sign?
If he's taken in the third, fourth, or fifth round, I can't think of any reason why he wouldn't sign. He's likely never going to establish himself as a premium bat, so he's not going to elevate himself to first round status. Seems like a pretty easy sign to me.