Over Yohendrick Pinango‘s first two full years with the Cubs, the young outfielder from Venezuela displayed a knack for hitting and a knack for going the other way with the baseball. In 2022, Pinango began to deliberately lift the ball in order to create some more power and home runs. That he did but there were some growing pains along the way.
In 2023, Pinango should start the year at Tennessee as part of a very talented quartet of outfielders for the Smokies. As to what kind of hitter he’s going to be next year remains to be seen. Will he be the guy we saw in 2019 and 2021 or will he be last year’s model? He could even become a hybrid of the two which would be ideal.
Here are five things to think about Pinango’s development.
1. Staying Within Himself
This much is clear, Pinango loves to play baseball and he loves to hit. When I first saw him in person in 2021 with South Bend at the end of the year, I was really impressed with his swing and attitude towards the game. You could see that he had a natural flare for hitting as he sees the ball really well. And with his success came some confidence and that confidence also pushed him to try and do too much at times. The Cubs were constantly talking to him about letting the game come to him rather than trying to force something at the plate. In 2022, he had as good of a first half as you would want to see from a prospect at the plate.
The top thing you notice about Pinango’s splits from last year was that it took him a while to get situated to hitting for more power. He started off the year in a very cold April hitting .246. That improved in May to .278 and slipped a little to .274 in June before going all the way up to .310 in July. Things looked to be rocking but you could start to see that Pinango was really pushing himself to be better and it just wasn’t happening all the time. He hit .150 in August and bottomed out at .130 in September. In addition, his slugging percentage, which was .500 early in the year, dropped to .200 in August and then it bottomed out at .174 in September.
Yohendrick Piñango denting OF walls. pic.twitter.com/Ed1qX2ZzRi— Brad (@ballskwok) July 9, 2022
3. Dealing with Frustration
It was frustrating to watch him struggle to hit each at-bat. It was equally frustrating for him to get through it. Even though he was hitting .310 in the dugout, you could see a trend when the opposition got him out, it really frustrated him. What started at as a simmer in July boiled over in August. It has to be hard for a guy who’s had success at every level to finally run into a wall that he doesn’t know how to get either over, around, or through. For Pinango, to have success at Tennessee he’s going to have to channel that frustration in a different direction at the plate.
4. Lots and Lots of ABs.
Pinango is going to get a lot of playing time to work on these things. He will be playing five out of six games each week and have three to four ABs each day. That’s a lot of pitches for him to see and hit, and it’s a lot of opportunities for him to improve and make good choices at the plate because that’s what it is really about. Will he revery back to going the other way more often? If he does, he could radically change his career path. If he ends up trying to pull everything, there are going to be a lot of worm burners happening.
5. A New Environment.
One thing that might be helpful for Yohendrick next year as he’ll probably have Michael Ryan as his skipper. Ryan is somewhat familiar as Yohendrick played a month of games under Ryan at the end of 2021. Pinango will also have a new hitting coach next year who will give him some fresh eyes as he goes through the season and adapts to Double-A.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of choices Pinango makes in that first month of the plate. Is he going to try and pull everything or will he go the other way? Is he just going to sell everything out for power or will he be a complete hitter? That’s a lot of questions for a prospect entering his first Double-A season at just 21-years-old.
Pinango’s ability to hit the baseball hasn’t changed. It’s more about choosing which ones to hit and which ones not to. If he can get back in a groove like he was mid summer of last year, big things could be happening.
Here he is in a video from about a week ago, he looks to have toned some things down but the bat path has not changed. It is still as smooth as butter.
Here’s an aggressive BP session from Yohendrick Piñango. pic.twitter.com/DAvkNJi71j— Brad (@ballskwok) January 26, 2023