The biggest news heading into this season was the four members of the Asheville starting rotation slated to repeat Low-A, and a week later the group is struggling to find some consistency. Riley Pint (No. 3 PuRP) is already on the disabled list and after the first run through the rotation the starters were sporting a combined ERA of 9.20.
Selected No. 4 overall by the Rockies in the 2016 draft, Riley Pint has flashed a triple-figures fastball which has the organization licking their chops. The big righty was inconsistent with his off-speed pitches and locating his fastball in 2017, so a year later he’s back and ready to show some improvement. His first start of the season however ended in a disaster. After giving up five runs, which involved two errors, two hits and a pair of walks in the first inning, Riley asked to be removed due to tightness in his forearm.
The injury landed him on the disabled list, and while it could be as simple as a forearm strain, the club is taking it easy and waiting to see how he responds to treatment. Pint remains with the team even after being evaluated by a doctor on Tuesday, so it’s possible the injury isn’t too severe, as the team would most likely send him to a specialist in Denver or Scottsdale if the problem was more significant.
Opening day starter Antonio Santos is the lone returnee showing improvement from last season. He’s locating his fastball and consistently working down in the zone with a sinker inducing groundballs. Capable of ratcheting it up to 97 mph, Santos is working with a heavy fastball that tops out at 95, but typically sits around 92-93 while inducing a lot of weak contact. The Dominican native has nice movement on his pitches, and if he can mix in his slider a little more effectively could become a dominant pitcher. Through two starts Santos has a 3.97 ERA, with 7 strikeouts.
Will Gaddis is the lone new starting pitcher to the Asheville organization. Drafted in Round No. 3 by the Rockies in 2017, Gaddis attended nearby Furman college in Greensville, SC. The righthander sits at 92-93 with good sink when the ball stays down, but he has a lot of balls squared up as he gets higher in the zone. He flashes a pretty change, but overall is inconsistent with is off-speed pitches. In his first start of the year, Gaddis allowed just two earned runs in 5.2 innings while striking out three Kannapolis batters.
A week into the season and shortstop Ryan Vilade (No. 8 PuRP) is already flashing his potential as highlighted in Asheville’s 7-6 win over the White Sox Single-A affiliate in Kannapolis on Monday night. The Rockies prospect extended his hitting streak to four games and led a late rally to tie the game in the 9th and send it into Asheville’s first extra inning game with the new minor league rules.
With one out in the ninth, Vilade slapped an outside pitch into right field, setting the table for Asheville’s mammoth first basemen Chad Spanberger. The lefthanded hitter launched a rainbow into the left field corner that just managed to bounce inside the foul line which allowed Vilade to motor home and tie the game at 6. Vilade is a large shortstop, at 6-foot-2 and listed at 194 lbs. Comparably in size, he’s larger than Brendan Rodgers (6’, 195) and slightly smaller than Troy Tulowitzki (6’3”, 205).
Defensively Vilade looks solid, especially going into the hole to his right where he has a smooth backhand transition and throw to first base. He made a nearly spectacular play on Monday with a Superman dive to his left on a line drive up the middle. The ball ricocheted off his glove to the second baseman effectively keeping the ball in the infield with a man on third.
Chad Spanberger is as advertised, and is a massive first basemen, similar in size to Brian Mundell. Chad drives the ball with power from the left side of the plate and he’s putting up some impressive numbers with a slash line of .370/.393/.556. His defense was strong as well handling line drives and balls in the dirt with ease.
Rightfielder Ramon Marcelino is a hidden gem to keep an eye on this season. The Dominican native was impressive during pregame BP as every hit was either off the wall or down the foul lines. He consistently drove liners down either corner and was able to carry it over into the games, where he has three doubles and is batting .333 on the season. Defensively, Marcelino has good range in the outfield and a decent arm that is probably better suited for left or center.