On Wednesday, the Pacific Coast League named Iowa right-hander – and Cubs farmhand – Carlos Pimentel the 2015 PCL Pitcher of the Year. Voted on by the PCL managers and media representatives across the league, Pimentel becomes the first I-Cubs pitcher to take home the honors.
A PCL All-Star in 2015, Pimentel, 25, is finishing up his second year in the Cubs organization, having signed a minor league contract with the team before the 2014 season began. He was the DWL Pitcher of the year last year and was the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June. Due to the nature of his contract, though, the Cubs will lose Pimentel to free agency at the end of this season if they do not add him to the 40-man roster.
So then, with the Cubs’ obvious needs at the back of the rotation and in the bullpen throughout 2015, why didn’t we hear more talk about calling up the PCL pitcher of the year? The answer is that, while his traditional numbers were quite strong (indeed, strong enough to get the highest league honor for his position), his peripherals told quite another story.
Over 143.1 innings, Pimentel maintained a 2.95 ERA and held batters to a .225 average throughout the season. These numbers are, in effect, the ones that served as the predicate for winning that award. Over those same 143.1 IP, Pimentel had a 4.51 FIP, thanks to an okay K-rate (19.4%) and a poor walk rate (11.2%). Aside from just a few seasons, in fact, Pimentel has had pretty significant control issues throughout his entire career, for example walking a career high of 5.56 per 9 innings in 2013.
Additionally, Pimentel’s BABIP in 2015 (.268) was a fair amount lower than his career average (.288), indicating that a good number of balls in play found more gloves than usual. Lastly, his LOB% in 2015 (75.8%) was a fair amount greater than his career mark (71.8%), indicating that the sequencing of the hits he was giving up occurred favorably.
The Cubs, then, likely saw the great results, but were all too aware of what the looming peripherals meant for his performance going forward (together, of course, with what they were observing first-hand, in terms of his physical performance and projectability). Given that the Cubs decided not to include Pimentel on the 40-man roster to this point, it’s a fair guess that we might see him walk at the end of the year. Until then, he’ll remain in the Cubs system and can be called upon as emergency depth, should something catastrophic happen to the rest of the Cubs rotation.
At the end of the day, Pimentel may not be long for the Cubs – and his results may not be sustainable – but he put up nice numbers and got recognized for it. If it doesn’t work out with Chicago, I wish Pimentel the best of luck and congratulate him on this honor. Every team will always need high minors pitching depth, and, all else equal, I’d prefer that the Cubs’ depth continued to win awards.