22. Riley Pint (150 points, 14 ballots)
This is the profile I’ve struggled with the most in the last couple versions of doing this list. Riley Pint’s potent arsenal (which includes a 102 mph, 75 grade fastball and multiple potential plus secondary offerings including a 70 grade curveball), if harnessed and polished, is that of a big league ace. His floor, given his struggles with command and two years mostly lost to injury, is that he never pitches a game above A ball. It’s a sizable gulf, and figuring out which end of the spectrum the 6’4” righty will land on is a question that vexes professional and amateur prospect enthusiasts alike.
It’s a chasm of potential outcomes that has the PuRPs electorate splitting the difference and putting the 22-year-old 22nd in the system. There’s no Rockies prospect I want to see succeed more than Pint, but it just doesn’t look like that realization is forthcoming. I mean, it’s tough to succeed when you’re getting a 20 grade on your Command. That’s the very bottom of the scouting scale, folks.
As Colorado’s 2016 first rounder with a $4.8 million signing bonus, Pint had a pedigree as strong as his repertoire. Growing up, he famously opted out from year-round baseball as was chronicled in Jeff Passan’s book “The Arm”, which put fewer “miles” on Pint’s arm entering pro ball. Consequently though, it also meant that Pint had fewer reps to refine his command before entering pro ball than even most high school arms. That meant there would be a steep developmental curve for Pint to take him from a thrower to a pitcher.
So far, the Rockies and Pint haven’t mastered that curve. In four professional seasons, Pint has thrown just 156 professional innings, including only 26 innings in the last two years combined. In 2018 it was forearm stiffness (in his first game) and later an oblique injury, in 2019 it was shoulder tendinitis that shut him down in June. When he was on the mound, it wasn’t pretty either.
Pitching for Low A Asheville mostly in a relief role in 2019, Pint threw 17 2⁄3 innings across 21 appearances. In that time he walked an incredible 31 batters (15.8 BB/9), hit 6 more, and threw 18 wild pitches (that’s over one per inning). Pint did strike out 23 (11.7 K/9) and limited opponents to only 12 hits during this time, but the resulting 8.66 ERA and 2.43 WHIP were decidedly not great. If it weren’t for the obvious promise he possesses, Pint would have washed out of baseball by now with those results.
Here’s a short clip of Pint from 2018 in Asheville courtesy of FanGraphs:
Pint was on some national top 100 lists as recently as 2018, but he’s far from them now. Still, the potential gets him ranked well on system evaluations.
Pint is 10th in the FanGraphs list with a 40+ FV grade despite the aforementioned 20 command grade:
It is not enough to say that Pint is having issues with control. Pitchers who walk guys at even a 10% or worse clip face legitimate questions about their ability to start, and sometimes their ability to pitch in the big leagues at all. Pint walked more than 30% of the hitters he faced last year, and had more wild pitches than innings. Such strike-throwing incompetence forced a move to the bullpen, which siphoned away reps, and injuries (oblique, forearm, shoulder) over the last two years have exacerbated this issue. He simply can’t be a big leaguer with this kind of wildness, but we’re still on Pint because his stuff remains incredible, among the best in the minors.
Through these struggles, Pint has continued to throw in the upper-90s with one of the harder power curveballs on the planet. The chances that he ends up as part of a rotation in any capacity have shrunk considerably, but there’s still a fair shot that he becomes a high-leverage reliever.
Baseball Prospectus continued their shrug emoji approach to Pint, ranking him 14th. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on Pint:
We’ve slotted Pint in with a group of relief prospects without closer upside, which represents a precipitous fall for the former fourth-overall pick. He came back from a 2018 forearm injury and promptly walked 31 batters in 23 innings before being shut down in June with shoulder tendonitis. The control issues aren’t hard to spot. Pint’s delivery is max effort and he struggles badly to find a consistent release point. If he ever does figure it out, he has far more late-inning upside than those around him with triple-digit heat and a plus breaker in his holster. But for a second straight year we must confess, he probably isn’t exactly the 14th-best prospect in the system, or if he is, one standard deviation could put him fourth or 44th.
MLB Pipeline has Pint 16th in the org:
The 6-foot-4 righty still cranks his fastball up to 97-100 mph consistently. The Rockies feel he has the best curve in the system, one that flashes as a 70 pitch, though not consistently. His above-average slider also can buckle knees and his fading changeup gives him a fourth pitch that grades out as at least above-average.
The one thing, other than health, that has held him back has been his ability to command the baseball. It will come down to him finding a way to control his effort and body, which will allow him to repeat his delivery and find the strike zone more consistently.
The command and injury concerns with Pint are enormous and unfortunate, there’s no getting around that. Pint still has a massive range of outcomes, but his most likely path to big league success is in relief given the sheer potency of the arsenal. Despite some of the pessimism induced by his numbers and injury history, I still harbor some optimism for Pint’s prospects, just less and less as a starter. After 2020, Pint will be Rule 5 eligible, and my sincere hope is that he’ll be good enough at that point to need protecting.
My 40+ Future Value grade on Pint as a closer in waiting (I ranked him 12th in the system) is completely inaccurate, but I don’t know which way it will be inaccurate. If Pint figures it out he’s much more valuable than that, while it’s quite unlikely he settles in as a below average MLB pitcher. There’s All-Star potential here just waiting to erupt. Annnnnnnnnnny day now.