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Colorado Rockies prospect rankings, midseason 2017: Riley Pint could be the next great Rockies hurler

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The flamethrowing righty comes in at number three on our midseason list

Today we continue our top five Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) for the midseason 2017. Last week we revealed prospects 30-26, then prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, prospects 15-11, and Monday prospects 10-6. We’ve already seen Peter Lambert and Raimel Tapia as prospects five and four, respectively. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 40 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.

For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via Rockies Roster), a note on the 2017 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.

3. Riley Pint (1,107 points, 40 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 3 — High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 2

How did he enter the organization?

2016 1st Round, St. Thomas Aquinas (KS) HS

Why did he make the PuRPs list?

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.

In his debut professional season last year 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 were metering the arm usage —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 was no disaster either.

This season Pint has again been among the youngest players in his league — this time the Low A South Atlantic League, where hitters have on average been 2.9 years older. Pint’s usage has again been metered, though of late the Rockies have stretched him out to almost 90 pitches per start in July. In all, Pint has thrown 72 13 innings this year over 17 starts. The numbers again are nothing to write home about — 4.23 ERA (4.45 FIP), 1.58 WHIP, 7.7 K/9 rate, and a still worrisome 5.5 BB/9.

For sure the elevated walks and a less-than dominant strikeout rate and ERA are a cause for concern for Pint. That written, some perspective is in order. Pint’s ceiling remains sky-high and he’s pitching pretty well overall in full season ball at age 19.

What do the scouts say?

Pint began this year on the top 100 of Baseball America (46), Baseball Prospectus (46), MLB.com (51), and ESPN.com (83). His uneven 2017 season and the emergence of others has moved him down or off those lists (he was 77th in BA’s midseason list and 64th for MLB.com), but he remains in consideration even in a down year.

2080 Baseball was the low outlet on Pint preseason, ranking him 7th in the system as a role 50 player with a 60 ceiling:

Pint backs up his premium velocity with a hard-breaking slurve that runs from the low-to-middle 80s and features quality spin and bite. His changeup will flash average and boasts some solid arm-speed deception, but is underdeveloped.

The developmental hurdle for Riley is control and consistency. The stuff is good enough that he doesn’t need surgical command in the zone, but at present he still struggles to throw strikes with consistency and, with respect to the breaking ball, can find himself having difficulty even working around the zone. That wild streak adds to the discomfort hitters feel in the box when facing down Pint’s power arsenal, but he’ll need to tighten everything up across the board if he’s to reach his upside in a rotation.

...

The command and control issues make it difficult to sign off on a front-end starter projection, but with even average control the stuff could fuel a number three starter’s profile. In relief, it’s easy to envision Pint as at least a high strikeout set-up arm, even if it comes with some walks and a little more excitement than fans and managers would prefer.

Baseball Prospectus also had a likely 50/ceiling 60 grade on Pint, putting him 4th in the org preseason:

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.

The Bad: The changeup ... “shows some promise.” ... 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.

In their midseason list update, MLB.com had Pint 2nd in the system and #64 overall in MLB with a 55 FV:

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.

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.

Here’s some video from last season of Pint courtesy of FanGraphs:

When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?

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 when he hits the hitter-friendly California League next year.

I suppose that's part of the reason why a potential ACE like Pint didn’t top the system (he was 2nd 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 55+ Future Value as a #2/3 major league starter.

★ ★ ★

We’ll complete our midseason list over the next two days, though I’m sure you can already guess who is where.