As 2015 comes and goes, nobody is more excited to take the field again like infielder Chad Pinder.
Pinder is in the Athletics' minor league system. He was rated as their 7th-best prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, and is projected to make his Major League debut in 2016.
"To be honest I don't focus on that," Pinder said in an email to Cover Those Bases. "I can only control what is in front of me, and that's playing where they put me. I plan on continuing to develop and work hard at some of the aspects of my game that I think need to be refined."
The 23-year-old has come a long way to get to where he is today. He grew up in Virginia, in a household with baseball being a main focus. His father, Chris, played in the Indians' and Orioles' systems and influenced Chad in his baseball endeavors.
"[He was] definitely the biggest influence in my baseball life, mostly the mental side to the grind of minor league life," Pinder said. "He lived it so he prepared me for what it was like."
Pinder was a four-year Varsity baseball player at Poquoson High School in Poquoson, Virginia. Pinder continued his baseball career at Virginia Tech and racked up honors, including being named to the All-ACC team in 2013.
"It was an honor to be named all ACC with the talent in the conference," Pinder said. "I did have an idea I would be drafted going into my junior year."
And he got his wish.
On June 6, 2013, Pinder got word from his advisor that he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the 71st overall pick in the second round. "Beyond excited," Pinder celebrated the milestone with family and friends. With the selection, he was Virginia Tech's seventh highest draft pick ever.
"It was surreal," Pinder said. "You don't really ever think it's going to happen and finally it did."
Pinder has been moved aggressively through the A's minor league system, reaching Double-A Midland this year. He hit for a .317 average and posted a .847 on-base plus slugging percentage in 522 plate appearances, swatting 15 home runs and driving in 86 RBIs.
Pinder was quite happy with his second full season of professional baseball, but notes that there are things he could have done better. Going forward, he hopes to refine his game to make himself a more complete player.
The Athletics also felt that Pinder had an excellent year, naming him to the Arizona Fall League (AFL) this fall. The AFL is known as a breeding ground for top prospects, with many Major League stars spending time there, including Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins, Bryce Harper, and David Wright. Pinder himself loved his experience out west.
"I had an awesome time," Pinder said. "I learned a lot and really enjoyed getting to play with and against some of the best talent in minor league baseball."
Going forward, Pinder's ultimate goal, of course, is to make it to the Majors, but in 2016 he is not getting ahead of himself.
"My plan is to control what I can all while working as hard as I can along the way," Pinder said. "Hopefully the rest will take care of itself."
From southeastern Virginia, one Athletics prospect is thrilled as the calendar flips to 2016. He knows what is at stake and continues to enjoy the game he has played his entire life. As 2015 comes and goes, there is nobody more excited than Chad Pinder.