|Why am I smiling? This is easy.|
With this in mind, let's just take a cursory glance at Pineda and what we might expect going forward.
First things first: It's not a given that he's even going to break camp with the M's despite the fact that he may very well have the second or third best "stuff" relative to the rotation come March 31st. There is the idea of keeping him in the minors long enough to tick his clock up one more year in terms of team control (2017, I believe). But my contact suggests that while the Mariners are more concerned with Ackley's service time, they may be more willing to give Pineda a legitimate shot at the rotation to begin the season. I'm not sure if that's because he has the potential to offer so much more than a replacement player in comparison to an Ackley at 2b (versus, say, Ryan or anyone else) but that's what the word is.
The good: He's huge and he has fantastic stuff. Pineda, on the whole, trades places with Ackley on most lists as the #1 prospect in the Mariner system. He has "ace" potential by many accounts with most agreeing that he should develop into a solid #2 starter on a competitive team. He just turned 22 (yeah, Felix is only 24 right now...wow) and his 2010 between AA and AAA looked like this: 3.36 ERA, 139 IP, 121 H, 154 SO, 1.112 WHIP. He had a 9.9 K/9 and only walked 34. In fact, his K/9 at AAA was damned near 11. That's pretty friggin good.
The bad: He's never faced major league hitters. That inherently means great risk - just ask Homer Bailey. His stuff is still very raw, he needs to develop his splitter, and he needs to improve against left handed batters. Pitchers are just fickle - it's very hard to predict baseball players, but it's probably the most difficult to predict great pitchers. While Pineda has all the physical tools to be a tremendous pitcher, there's a fine line between being Felix Hernandez and Freddy Garcia. We will know a whole lot more once we see him face big league hitters.
Whether he's on the major league roster in April or not, Pineda is a player to be excited about if you're a Mariner fan.
Just don't expect a Cy Young.