Pinder, one of the Hokies' best players over the past few years, was selected by the Oakland Athletics with the 71st pick of the MLB First-Year Player Draft (or Rule 4 Draft), just two picks before the conclusion of the first day of the draft. His selection marks the highest for a Hokie since Joe Saunders was drafted No. 12 overall by the Anaheim Angels, coincidentally the only former Hokie currently in the major leagues.
That's the highest a #Hokie has gone since 2002 when Joe Saunders was drafted #12 overall by the Anaheim Angels.— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) June 7, 2013
Pinder was lauded by the MLB Network broadcasters covering the draft:
Greg Amsinger: "Chad Pinder...You're looking at a major reason of the resurgence of baseball at Virginia Tech. Great defense for a third baseman. When they needed him to later this year he moved to shortstop. Where does he project in your eyes at the next level?"
John Hart: "I'll tell you what, I like him. I mean you put him out there at third-base, but I think this is the type of player that has the ability to play all over the diamond. I think he can play third, short, second. I like that he's a baseball player. I think it's a good Oakland pick right here. This guy's got major league written all over him."
Jonathan Mayo: "He's a college performer, a big reason why Virginia Tech, as you said, has been so good. And then late in the season, college tournaments, scouts pour into those and he put on a show. He showed more power than he had shown for much of his college career right at the end there, so I think there's probably some more belief that maybe there's little more pop in his bat to come."
That is certainly high praise from that group, though they are notorious for not saying negative things about young players who are drafted. That's not to say when someone receives overwhelmingly positive comments from commentators that is not significant, just to caution those who take it without a grain of salt.
So what does Pinder being drafted, and more particularly Pinder's draft position mean for both Pinder and the Hokies? Well, Pinder does have a year of eligibility still remaining, but despite Pinder's comments before the draft, leaving it open for his return, I would say that was simply a possibility should he not have been drafted in a spot to his liking. Coach Pete Hughes tends to agree with that assessment, telling Mike Barber yesterday he believed there was "no chance" that Pinder returned and saying:
"He's a projected big leaguer. He's got the work ethic to do it. He makes jumps every year."
Unlike several other Hokie draft hopefuls, Pinder was not drafted when he came to Tech in 2010 out of Poquoson High School. Therefore, being drafted for the first time might be more significant for him. However, there is at least a slight chance that Pinder is unhappy with his draft position, the team he was drafted by, loves the college experience too much to not return or some combination of those factors which would lead him to return. But for the amount of money he is about to be offered as a top-75 pick (especially as he can use those factors mentioned above to command more money above his slot), I would again find it hard to believe that he would return for his senior year to improve his stock, regardless of how consistent he has been as a collegiate player.
One thing is for sure, if Pinder does decide to return to Virginia Tech, he would be welcomed back with open arms by the fans of the program.
Pinder also joins an organization in Oakland which, despite having many options at the high levels of their minor league system who can play short, only have one player (2011 first rounder Addison Russell) at the lower levels who has proven the ability to hit and play the position in the field at a competent level. So his ability to get at bats and prove his worth at that position should be attainable in that organization. Oakland also spent its other first and second round 2013 picks elsewhere (center field and pitcher).
The Athletics do want to keep him at short per their press release, seemingly because of his ability to play the position, his strong arm and his ability to profile as a plus power producer from that position more than a corner infielder.
In his three-year career at Virginia Tech to-date, Pinder hit .322 with 18 home runs and 101 RBI while adding 15 stolen bases. He also compiled a .389 OBP (on-base percentage) and slugged .509. In 2013, his best year to-date, Pinder achieved career-highs in every category except batting average (.321) and slugging percentage (.483). He also hit 8 home runs and added 50 RBI, tied for third on the team.
For more on the MLB First-Year Player Draft and the Hokie hopefuls that will be waiting to hear their names called Saturday and Sunday, keep checking back with us here at Gobbler Country, your home for all things Virginia Tech baseball.