This winter Ricardo Pinto turned a few heads with some high rankings on Phillies top prospect lists. He had just made his stateside debut in Williamsport on a team that does not get a ton of eyes. On first glance Pinto is not physically what you would expect from a good starting pitcher prospect with a listed height/weight of 6’0″ 165lbs. He also comes with relatively little hype after spending two years in the Venezuelan Summer League before then going to Williamsport late in the year.
Before we go into what Pinto has done so far this year, lets just reset to where we were to start the year. Pinto last year was 91-94 touching 95 with his fastball. The opinions on Pinto’s changeup range from plus to above average. His slider was listed as having average potential but everyone agrees that it is still very inconsistent. Kiley McDaniel’s writeup described him as “having huge balls”, and he just attacks hitters in the strike zone.
So what is different about Pinto now as he starts off the year with a strong 13 IP 1.38 ERA 12 H 3 BB 12 K performance for Lakewood including 10 strikeouts today? The answer is absolutely nothing. His fastball was 91-94 touching 95 in Florida, but was down a bit in the cold on opening day. Today he gave up some hits up the middle on sliders that were in the middle of the zone and then had hitters swinging and missing on changeups. His command still needs work, but his control is just fine as he was at 63 strikes and 27 balls in the middle of the 7th inning.
Now this whole profile sounds very familiar if you have followed Lakewood over the past few seasons…
In 2013 Mecias (who was a year and a half younger than Pinto is right now) broke out in Lakewood with a 3.73 ERA over 57 innings with 25 walks and 70 strikeouts. He was even better after moving full time to the rotation going 42.2 IP with a 2.53 ERA 16 walks and 56 strikeouts. Mecias’ year ended prematurely due to Tommy John surgery and is still working his way back, but he had a good enough year to cement himself on top prospect lists. Mecias’ profile for those not familiar is a left handers with a fastball at 87-91 (was more 90-93 preinjury) but has reached up to 95 (and he does have more physical projection that Pinto), with a plus or better changeup, and an inconsistent average slider. Now, hopefully Pinto doesn’t get hurt, but a Mecias like breakout would be a huge boost for the Phillies season.
Both pitchers have ceilings as #3 starters if the sliders can get to average, but if the third pitch can match the first two pitches then there is more ceiling for both pitches. Right now Pinto looks right on track to be a top 10 prospect in the Phillies system and possibly even higher.