In some ways, left-hander Elias Pinales is just like a lot of young pitching prospects over the years from the Dominican Republic. He is tall and lean, and throws hard. He is a decent prospect, but has a lot of developing to do to try and work his way up through the Orioles farm system.
Pinales, from Bajo de Haini, turned 20 in November. The 6-foot-4, 155-pounder was signed by David Stockstill as a non-drafted free agent on Aug. 27, 2010.
For the Dominican Summer League Orioles in 2011, he went 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 31 innings. Last season, between the DSL, the Gulf Coast League O's and short-season Single-A Aberdeen, he went 3-4 with a 4.21 ERA. In 62 innings, he gave up 58 hits with 22 walks and 64 strikeouts. He had a 1.65 ground-to-air-out ratio and a .248 batting average against.
"He's got a plus fastball," Orioles director of pitching development, Rick Peterson said. "He really struggles to spin the baseball with his breaking ball. He'll show you a changeup. He can struggle to get athleticism in his delivery. He can be very stiff and I think it's going to be a case of having a full year at (Single-A) Delmarva and to see how he develops. You're hoping that with the promise he showed last year he could leave spring training and be a starter at Delmarva.
"He struggles with his delivery and sometimes his leg kick is different from pitch to pitch, sometimes his arm action is different from pitch to pitch. It's a level of inconsistency, but what he shows is a plus left-handed arm and plus velocity. But right now, there is a lot of development that has to happen for him to take those next steps."
How was his velocity last year?
"He was 92, 94, touching 95 (mph) on occasion. It was high-end velocity," Peterson said.
No one is projecting stardom for Pinales - it's just too early for any of that. But a few people in the organization have mentioned his name to me a few times and it sounds like he is another young hurler worth tracking over the next few years to see if he can take those next steps.
For now, Peterson said it's accurate to say Pinales has one of the good, young arms in the organization and is one of the club's potentially most promising young Dominican hurlers.
"That is fair to say, especially as a left-hander," Peterson said. "He's got a lot of delivery work to master to take the next step. The arm is definitely there. And he is willing to put the time and energy in. It's just a matter of if he can allow himself to throw more free and easy. We are trying to get a more free-flowing rhythm in the delivery."
Pinales put up his best numbers last summer with the GCL Orioles. He was 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA in eight games and in 36 1/3 innings, he walked nine and fanned 33. In that time, he held GCL lefty hitters to a .056 average (1-for-18) while right-handed batters hit .261 off Pinales.
Like many young pitching prospects, Pinales is a bit raw now, but sometimes they go on to realize their potential as they grow, learn and develop more.
"You are hoping that he does," Peterson added. "What also makes it difficult when there is a language barrier, we can communicate the words, but maybe not always the thoughts and feelings. That sometimes takes a lot more time.
"Like with (2012 high-school draft pick) Josh Hader, where there were open discussions, talking about his development, talking about his play in high school. Helping him understand this is all about making adjustments as each year goes by. It's a constant evolution. Very few people stay the same. It can be a little more different with a pitcher from another country."
IronBirds Hot Stove Dinner: O's skipper Buck Showalter will be the guest speaker when the Aberdeen IronBirds host their first Hot Stove Dinner on Thursday, Jan. 17 at Ripken Stadium. It figures to be a great night. I'll be there and hope you will be, too. The first 200 tickets sold to the Hot Stove Dinner will also get a free ticket to Orioles FanFest on Jan. 19. Click here for more information.