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.