Ricardo Pinto’s Silent Rise

I have had it mentioned to me a couple of times in the past few weeks that Ricardo Pinto is the Phillies top prospect that people seem to know the least about.  On the surface he has been really easy to overlook.  At 6’0″ he is not physical or projectable.  He came out of nowhere last year, and at 20 years old he wasn’t particularly young for the New York Penn League.  He was also really under scouted by public sources last year and there was little information before offseason rankings about him.  His profile also isn’t all that sexy on first glance, changeups just don’t film like breaking balls, and control doesn’t make people go wow like pure velocity.  But all that being said he has been well represented on rankings for the past years, so he has not been underrated nationally.

To understand Ricardo Pinto you have to start with the fastball.  Pinto will feature a traditional 4 seam fastball that will sit 91-94 and he has gotten into the 95-96 range in most starts this year.  He has good control of the pitch and has some feel for command as well, the one knock on the pitch is that it is fairly straight.  He will also throw a two seam fastball in the 89-91 range that features some run and sink, that he will use to get ground balls.  Overall the fastball plays as a plus pitch for him and is the foundation of his arsenal.

Here is Pinto throwing the fastball for a called strike at 93 mph.  – Video by Baseball Betsy

The real weapon here is a plus changeup.  The pitch starts with excellent deception has he throws it with the arm speed and slot as his fastball.  Beyond the deception, the changeup (which he throws in the 79-83 range) has really good armside fade (move down and towards the right handed batters box).  He is not afraid to throw the pitch to both right and left handed batters and has shown the ability to locate the pitch as well.  In the minors it has been his primary bat missing pitch and he has used it early in counts to pitch inexperienced hitters backwards.

Pinto throws the changeup for a swinging strikeout. – Video by Baseball Betsy

The third (or fourth once you split the fastballs) pitch in Pinto’s arsenal is an inconsistent slider.  At times it will flash average to a bit above, but last set of reports were that the pitch still lacks consistency.  The slider is an important future piece in the arsenal for Pinto in the same way that it is an important piece for Zach Eflin a level above him.  Unlike Eflin, Pinto’s changeup is a real bat misser, but he does need another pitch just to keep hitters honest at the plate.

The thing that separates Pinto from his peers for me is on the mental side.  The Phillies love his composure and approach, because he just attacks hitters.  Pinto has confidence in his fastball and changeup and will throw them as a strike to anyone.  This sounds really simple, but it is not a quality you find in a ton of pitching prospects, not everyone goes out and just attacks the hitters.

Statistically, Pinto has backed up his stuff, and on the season he has a 2.79 ERA over 135.1 IP with 118 hits, 34 walks, and 101 strikeouts on the year.  He did struggle to strike out batters upon his promotion to the FSL, but in 3 August starts he has gone 19.2 innings with a 0.46 ERA 11 H 3 BB 16 K.  He likely will settle in the 7-8 K/9 range has he goes forward because of the lack of the wipeout breaking ball, but it should be plenty.  Pinto has the inside track on being the first real prospect to win the Paul Owens Award for the top Phillies minor league pitching season.

Together, the whole profile has mid rotation upside because he has the two plus pitches to go to, but he is not going to reach that ceiling without the slider getting to at least average.  The more likely outcome here is a #4 starter who goes out and attacks hitters with the fastball and changeup and will flash a higher upside on days where the command is perfect.  The fall back here is a fastball/changeup reliever, in which case it is an impact back of the bullpen arm.  The Phillies are going to keep him as a starter until he gets forced off the position.  He should start 2016 in the Reading rotation and with a Rule 5 decision looming after the 2016 season he could actually arrive in the major league fairly quickly.  He may not be in the same proximity tier as Thomspon and Eflin or have the upside of Kilome, but Pinto is very close to the conversations about best pitching prospect in the system.

Photo by Baseball Betsy.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

5 comments

  1. B-dog

    Love Pinto- this article pretty much said it all. His rule 5 situation might cause him to leapfrog rotation candidates next year. I can’t imagine he’d see much time, if any, in Lehigh Valley. The key could be maintaining this velocity and its associated sharpness over a larger workload. Competitive spirit seems to be bringing out the best of this glut of starting pitching in the upper minors, which hopefully carries over (or continues to) with their promotions. The notion of limited spots on the big league roster feels ridiculous at this point, but I hope redundancy doesn’t breed stagnation that could potentially stunt development for some of these guys down the road. I doubt this applies to Pinto, who very likely gets a chance in late 2016.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if some scouts claimed they liked Pinto better than Eflin or even Thompson, let alone the rest of the Reading crew. That’s not to say I do, but the physical advantage of those two could be dismissed if one believes Pinto’s body can withstand the rigors of professional pitching. If so, the approach, command and stuff makes for a strong overall profile. Whichever of those three begins to show consistency with their 3rd pitch could quickly separate themselves from the pack.

  2. dcwildcat53

    instead of bringing Ray Burris up with the sept. call ups after the season, I think he needs to fly straight to florida and work with eflin and pinto on their sliders during instructs.

    • B-dog

      That BA video is actually pretty great for checking out his mechanics. 2 big takeaways- he generates most of his power from that lower half, using that slight rocking motion, which naturally takes pressure off his arm and seems relatively sustainable for a a smaller starter. Also, he hides the ball well with that delivery, which plays up his stuff, as all three pitches pretty much look the same until they’re on their way to the plate. This might not generate the natural movement of a Pedroesque little hard-thrower but it puts a lot less strain on his arm. As he progresses, I suspect he will utilize his 2 seamer more to get better movement and induce groundballs, especially against left-handed hitters. After he sharpens his slider, this might be the next thing for him to work on.

      • Romus

        Did not realize he has to be put on the 40 by Nov 2016…thought it was Nov 2017 when he is 23-years old, but he was signed in Dec 2011, and birthday is in January ’94.