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Riley Pint deserves a shot at a bullpen spot

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, January 31, 2024

One of the more intriguing storylines for the Colorado Rockies was the promotion of Riley Pint to the big league roster where he was finally able to make his long-awaited debut in a Rockies uniform. Unfortunately for Pint, his debut lasted for just one out in a mixed outing, but I’m still in the camp that he can be a helpful contributor in the Rockies bullpen.

Originally drafted fourth overall in 2016 by the Rockies, Pint battled injuries and ineffectiveness before retiring during the 2021 season. He then un-retired and joined the Rockies organization once again in 2022 where he found renewed success as a reliever. Despite a difficult year in Triple-A Albuquerque this past season, Pint was able to pitch a full season and has still shown plenty of promise that he could stick as a big leaguer in some capacity.

My hopes were renewed once again recently when I saw Pint featured on social media during his appointments at Driveline Baseball.

I’m a sucker for a guy bringing some heat off the mound.

The Rockies bullpen is slowly filling up with guys capable of regularly throwing balls in the mid to high 90s. Power arms appear to be a trait the Rockies are valuing in the bullpen which follows with the trend across baseball. High-octane and wipeout secondary pitches are helpful tools for pitchers looking to get outs in high-leverage situations.

Velocity itself has never been much of a problem for Pint. In high school, he managed to hit 102 mph and his fastball still featured a potential to regularly hit 100 mph. It was that fastball that helped Pint regain his footing in 2022 by going 2-1 with a 4.64 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings over 38 appearances with Double-A Hartford.

That velocity remained in 2023 in Triple-A but the aspect of his pitching that presented a problem is one that has followed him throughout his professional career, his control.

Throughout his career, Pint has averaged a walk rate ranging from 15% to 30%. It’s been in fluctuation and pinpoints that command is a real point of focus for his development. In Triple-A, Pint finished the season with a 3-4 record and a 6.12 ERA over 47 relief appearances. In that time frame, he issued 57 walks in 57 13 innings.

Pint’s big league debut was cut short due to three walks that were issued. The video below shows his debut in its entirety.

Of the 20 pitches thrown by Pint in his debut, only six were considered strikes. He threw a first-pitch strike to two of the five batters he faced. As you watch the video you’ll notice that Pint’s fastball (Baseball Savant classified it as a sinker), has plenty of zip to it and a bit of cut and run. The slider also had some nice bite to it and I saw no problems with that during his outing. His struggles came from an inability to find the zone with his fastball. It was running inside, outside, and missing high in the zone.

Because of the lack of control, Reds hitters could sit patiently and strike when he did finally get one over the plate, resulting in the double to right field that was hit. Now, there are plenty of factors to consider, adrenaline and nerves in his debut namely, to explain the outcome of that outing, but Pint showed that he has the stuff in his arsenal, but it’s a matter of using it to its full potential.

Appointments with Driveline is an encouraging sign of Pint’s determination to prove his worth. He’ll surely take advantage of the pitching lab at the Rockies spring training complex as well. It’s been my opinion that Pint should have gotten more opportunities with the big league class last season, rather than sending out Fernando Abad multiple times. He still has a big arm with a nice fastball-slider combo and he’ll be one of the players to keep a closer eye on during spring training in a few weeks.

The Rockies are going to be all hands on deck heading into 2024 as the internal competitions begin to shape up the roster. This spring training feels crucial for Pint as some minor league signings by the Rockies appear more likely to crack the roster, and there are only so many spots available. Now is the time for the Rockies to commit to their former first-round pick and give him every chance to prove he deserves a spot in the bullpen come Opening Day.


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