Yohan Pino? Who the heck is this guy?
Yohan Pino is a 30-year-old right-hander from Venezuela. He was having a terrific year in Triple-A: 1.92 ERA, 61/16 K/BB in 61 innings, 41 hits. He's been pitching Double-A and Triple-A baseball since 2007 and has usually been fairly effective, throwing strikes and posting solid K/BB ratios without anyone noticing, although his performance this year has been the best of his career and I think he merited the promotion.
I wrote about Pino way back in the 2007 edition of the Baseball Prospect Book. This is what I wrote, after he went 14-2, 1.91 with a 99/20 K/BB in 94 innings in the Low-A Midwest League for Beloit without generating much attention as a prospect:
Seeking to corner the market on Venezuelan pitchers with names that sound like "Johan," the Twins picked up Yohan Pino as a free agent in 2003. He had a brilliant year in the Midwest League in ’06, dominating the competition in a swingman role and picking up 14 wins despite starting just seven games. That’s a bit flukey, of course, but he pitched genuinely well, as his components show (K/BB +116 percent, K/IP +27 percent, H/IP +23 percent). Pino’s fastball is just average at 88-90 MPH, but he has a good breaking ball, a good changeup and he knows how to pitch. We need to see if he can do this at higher levels. I will give him a Grade C for now, but he is a sleeper you should keep track of.
Did anyone keep track of Pino as a sleeper for the last seven years? Probably not. But hey, sometimes it just takes a guy awhile to wake up.
Pino topped out at 91 MPH against the White Sox last night, his fastball averaging 88. He mixed in his slider and changeup and some slow curves, basically the exact same arsenal he showed seven years ago. This is number five starter stuff, but it's enough to succeed if his command is on. He's also notable for having taught Twins prospect Alex Meyer a new changeup grip.
Where does Pino go from here? He clearly deserves more chances and I don't see why he can't have a run of success as a back-end starter and bullpen option. The league will get a book on him soon enough so maybe it will be a brief run, but he's versatile, has plenty of experience, and throws strikes. Maybe he can make it work for awhile.
Whatever happens, it is good to see a minor league veteran who knows his craft get an opportunity.