3. Riley Pint (1,075 points, 39 ballots)
As the number four overall pick in the 2016 draft, Riley Pint signed for $4.8 million with the Rockies and brings with him a very potent arsenal. That includes a triple digits fastball (he's touched 102 and sits in the mid to upper 90s), a power curveball, and a plus changeup—though evaluations vary, as you’ll see in the scouting reports below. Better yet, the 6'4" 19 year-old righty has a relatively low mileage arm thanks to him opting out from year-round baseball as was famously chronicled in Jeff Passan's book "The Arm". That doesn't mean Pint will be immune to injury, but it's a promising sign that Pint has taken care of his arm well to this point. Ryan Schoppe did a good job of summarizing Pint in his pre-draft profile.
In his debut professional season for Rookie Ball Grand Junction, Pint made 11 abbreviated starts against players who were on average 3.5 years older than him. The abbreviated part was more by design, as the Rockies are metering the arm usage at this point—Pint was on a pitch/innings limit and didn’t exceed five innings or 80 pitches in any of his starts. In 37 frames, Pint posted a 5.35 ERA, 5.45 FIP, 1.78 WHIP while striking out 36 hitters and walking 23. Any time you see 5.6 BB/9 that’s a bit of a red flag, but I should note that Pint’s .383 BABIP would seem to have been a little unlucky. In all, it’s not a good line but it’s no disaster either.
Pint was rated as the second overall draft prospect by MLB.com but somehow he ranked just seventh among 2016 draftees in their recent top 100 list—51st overall in baseball. That was good enough for third in the Rockies system:
Pint's fastball alone would make him intriguing, because it sits at 93-98 mph and climbs as high as 102, but there's much more to his arsenal. His power curveball already is a plus pitch, sometimes grades better than that, and he can alter it into a harder slider when he desires. Though he didn't need a changeup as an amateur, he already shows flashes of a plus change with some fade.
The caveat with Pint is that his control and command lag behind his stuff. He throws with considerable effort, leading to worries about his ability to stay healthy and locate his pitches in the long run. If he can learn tone down his delivery and do a better job of repeating it, he can become the homegrown ace the Rockies have tried to develop for years.
Notably, Pint gets a 75 fastball grade with 60 grades on the curveball and changeup with a 50 slider for good measure. That’s a fantastic arsenal, but Pint’s 45 control grade will go a long way towards deciding how good he ends up being.
Pint is the hardest-throwing high school kid I’ve personally seen in 15 years in the business and the only one to hit 100 mph on my own radar gun. He has a lightning-quick arm, and he can really hold upper 90s without too much trouble; catch him on the right day and you’ll see a 60 slider or, as I did, a 40 slider and an average (50) changeup. Although there’s some violence in his release, his arm swing itself is pretty clean, and I don’t think it’s a massive overhaul to get him to a delivery he can repeat. Although right now you’d grade his command 30, maybe.
He’s very athletic, and after he was worked hard as an underclassman, he pitched relatively infrequently the summer before his senior year of high school, a huge positive that I wish more kids would emulate. The Rockies took Pint fourth overall, perhaps feeling like his fastball plays up in their home park (and pitchers who rely on breaking balls might fare worse), also betting on his tremendous athleticism. Pint looks like a five-year development guy, but he has No. 1 starter upside, and might even get there if he comes down to 94-96 mph but starts to throw more strikes.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs rated Pint as the 2nd best prospect in the system:
Pint is the prototypical power pitching prospect cut from the same physical cloth as Justin Verlander and possessing the same god-given heat. Aside from the violent head whack entrenched in Pint’s delivery, he has all the physical attributes of a front-end arm. He’s very athletic ... has a broad-shouldered, projectable frame and he repeats an explosive but graceful delivery fairly well for his age.
He also sits 96-plus with the fastball. Pint will show you an easy 96 during warmups before cresting 100 mph — as he did in his only instructional-league outing. He was flashing a plus-plus power breaking ball during instructs in the 82-86 mph range. It was consistently above average and many had surprising depth given their velocity. Pint’s feel for an upper-80s changeup is immature but he showed glimpses of an average one late in his instructional outing. He’s able to mimic his fastball’s arm speed but has a hard time getting the ball to tumble away from lefties. Pint’s arm speed and athleticism allow for projection here, as do universally glowing reviews on his makeup.
While Pint can touch 100 in short bursts, he mostly sits 94-98 over the course of an entire start. His slider projects to at least plus at maturity and I think the changeup will come. Some teams were concerned about the violence in the delivery leading up to the draft. At the very least, scouts questioned whether retaining his head whack would cost Pint starter-level command in pro ball. His command is well below average right now but again, this is a good athlete and it’s unreasonable to expect a teenager with an upper-90s fastball to have even fringe-average command right now. I think it will come eventually. There’s a chance for three plus or better pitches here with at least average command. Pint is a potential front-line starter.
Baseball Prospectus weighed in by placing Pint 4th in the system:
The Good: The triple-digit velocity readings may be only an occasional outlier, but [Pint’s] heater sits in the mid 90s, regularly touches higher, and moves enough to make it all shake out as plus-plus. He features both a slider and curve at present, and they can bleed together a bit. I prefer the slider, but these type of things can change rapidly with pro instruction. Anyway, there’s enough feel here to project a plus breaker of some taxonomy someday.
The Bad: The changeup ... “shows some promise.” He didn’t need it much as a high school pitcher in Kansas touching triple digits, so there’s some work here to do, but he shows the right arm speed for it, and even now the pitch will flash with some fade. The bigger issue is the delivery is a bit of a project. It’s drop-and-drive mechanics with various amounts of drop and drive pitch to pitch, and a fair amount of effort on every pitch. Again, pro instruction can change this, but it’s easier to tighten up a curveball than it is to overhaul mechanics. Right now though, the command and control projections are below-average.
The Risks: Pint is a high school pitcher with no pro track record yet, a rough delivery, and one and a half pitches. There’s a lot of work to be done, so a lot of risk in the profile.
John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked Pint 3rd in the organization:
Fastball 95-100 MPH with 102 readings in high school; also has a plus breaking ball; change-up needs work but is developable; command can also be shaky but given athleticism and aptitude it should improve; number one starter upside but will need time to get there and like all young pitchers we’ll need to see if he can stay healthy.
For good measure, Baseball America ranked Pint 2nd in the system and rated Pint’s fastball and changeup as the best of those offerings in the entire system.
Pint is a long ways from Coors Field, but that shouldn't stop Rockies fans from imagining a fully developed pitcher with Pint's stuff and profile fronting the big league rotation. A harmonic path through the system would get Pint to the Show in late 2020 or 2021, but there's quite a bit that could go awry on the way—like for instance his full season ball debut in a hitter’s park in Low-A Asheville next year.
I suppose that's part of the reason why a potential ace like Pint didn’t top the system (he was third on my list)—if he were closer to the big leagues, his ceiling would merit a higher placement here. As it is, Riley has a 60 Future Value as a No. 2 major league starter.