Over the past five seasons, the Mariners have seen Michael Pineda transform from tall, lanky Dominican kid into a full-bodied, strong young man with a powerful right arm. During this time his velocity has increased from the low 90s to a regular 95 MPH with frequent triple-digit readings on the radar gun.
The biggest question for Pineda, the Mariners and fantasy owners is whether or not his arm can hold up long-term under this kind of torque. So, let's take a deeper look at the man who has Seattle fans interested in baseball once again.
Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Height: 6'5" Weight: 250 lbs Hits: Right Throws: Right
2010 Stats (Double-A & Triple-A Combined) 11-4, 3.36 ERA, 139 IP, 154 K's, 1.11 WHIP
Scouting Report: Michael Pineda has gone from beanpole to powerhouse in a matter of four seasons. His development is every scout's dream, as he's outperformed even the highest of expectations before reaching the major leagues.
Best of all, Pineda's fastball has increased in velocity from the low to high 90s without losing any of its natural run or heavy sink. This fastball is among the best, if not the best, in the minor leagues.
In addition, Pineda also throws a hard-charging slider that he has improved the cut and tilt on since early last season. He still has a tendency to throw it too hard at times, thus limiting the break. It is still a quality pitch but one that needs constant refinement as Pineda matures.
He also throws a quality changeup that tops out in the upper 80s and is kept low in the zone. If he is to remain a starter, he will need to find a way to drop the velocity on his change and move it around more to alter the hitters' eye level and keep them honest.
With the body transformation and the excess velocity he has put onto his pitches, there is reason for concern regarding injuries. In 2009 he had several bouts with elbow soreness and had a brief recurrence of this in 2010 as well.
There are some who believe it would be in Pineda's best interest to be a late-inning reliever instead of racking up innings while tossing power fastballs and sliders.
2011 Analysis: Pineda has all but locked up the Mariners fifth starter gig after turning in a very impressive spring training thus far. He has little left to prove in the minor leagues as he can simply overpower hitters there with his fastball.
Seattle is a great place for a young pitcher to grow up for a variety of reasons. The ballpark is a plus for pitchers, as nothing carries well in the near-tropical climate in the Pacific Northwest.
Also, there are few distractions in Seattle. It isn't a city of clubs, drugs and nightlife, and thus younger players don't have the distractions they might in other cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
Best of all, however, is the great defense that the Mariners put out on the field every given night. The range and soundness at every position is unparalleled around the league. Although Pineda is a hard-throwing strikeout machine, he will have to learn how to get hitters out on contact.
That skill is much easier to master when there is a solid defense behind you that won't give the opposition extra outs.
Pineda is a legitimate breakout candidate as long as he can stay healthy and maintain command of all three pitches. He should be drafted in all AL-only leagues and should be considered highly in mixed leagues where you need four or more starting pitchers.
There is quite a bit of risk involved with Pineda, so buyers should beware. Still, the potential strikeout totals and low WHIP and ERA numbers are well worth the risk of injury.
Compare to: Neftali Feliz, Jose Contreras, Joel Zumaya
Jeff Mans is a contributor to Bleacher Report and the Senior Writer on Fantasy Alarm.