Right-handed starting pitcher Ricardo Pinto (pictured, center) had a breakout season in the Phillies organization last year. Honored as the top pitcher in their minor league ranks, the 21-year-old is very promising and will look to continue his success this year, as he moves up.
Boasting a mid-90's fastball and a plus change up, Pinto has looked great at the lower levels of the minors. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan states that Pinto's is the best change up among the organization's righty prospects. Development of a third offering, his slider, will be the determining factor of the type of progress he'll see.
Signed as an international free agent in December, 2011, the Venezuela native debuted in pro ball in the Venezuela Summer League the following year. In 15 games (10 starts) he sported a 7-3 record with one save, a 2.74 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
He repeated the VSL in 2013, posting a 3-5 record with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 14 games, strictly as a starter.
In 2014, Pinto moved north, pitching with the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters, where he posted a 1-5 record and a 2.11 ERA with 48 strike outs and 15 walks in 47 innings over nine starts as a 20-year-old.
Moving up to a full season schedule last year, the six-foot 165-pounder opened the campaign with Class A Lakewood, where he tallied a 6-2 record and a 3.09 ERA while striking out 60 and walking 18 in 67 innings over 11 starts. He earned a promotion in mid-June, moving up to Class A Advanced Clearwater. In 13 games there, Pinto notched a 9-2 record with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.
Terrific efforts in 2015 earned Pinto the honor of being winner of the Paul Owens Award, bestowed upon the top performing minor league pitcher and offensive player each year by the Phillies.
Evaluators often place Pinto's ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. If he can improve his slider to above average status, Pinto could live up to those expectations with ease.
The Phillies like the way Pinto, who turns 22-years-old on the day this piece is scheduled to publish, competes, describing his approach as business-like. He attacks the opposition and appears daring, maintaining outstanding composure with a top-notch work ethic.
Physically, he may not project to add much to his frame, but that shouldn't prevent him from refining his standout offerings to climb the ladder.
Expect Pinto to hold down a key spot in the rotation for Double-A Reading this year. If things go well for the youngster, look for him to be in the discussion for a promotion (up one or two levels) by mid-summer.