|Ricardo Pinto, image- Jay Floyd|
Two seasons ago, the Phils honored the native Venezuelan as one of their Paul Owens Award winners, an honor given to the top offensive and pitching performers in the team's developmental ranks each season, and last year Pinto represented the World team in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Signed as an international free agent in December, 2011, Pinto debuted in affiliated 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.
Taking on a full season schedule in 2015, 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 with the Threshers, Pinto notched a 9-2 record with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Combined at the two levels, he posted a 6.5 K/9 mark.
Last season, Pinto took another step, becoming a key part of a solid rotation for Double-A Reading. In 27 games (25 starts) he tallied a 7-6 record with a 4.10 ERA, a .253 batting average against and a 5.8 K/9 mark.
This off-season with La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League, Pinto appeared in eight contests in a relief role. Over 14 innings of work, he posted a 2-0 record with a 3.86 ERA while striking out 10 and walking four. The Phillies felt it was important for Pinto to get that experience in a high energy league where winning is critical each and every day.
Talent evaluators tend to 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.
Boasting a mid-90’s fastball and an exceptional change up, Pinto has the beginnings of a very solid repertoire. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan has touted in the past that Pinto’s is the best change up among the organization’s pitching prospects. Development of a third offering, a breaking pitch, will be the determining factor of the type of progress he’ll see. He's worked mostly with a slider through his career, but began working with a curve ball more frequently last year. That was something he needed to develop more consistency with and give the opposition another weapon to worry about.
The Phils organization likes the way the 23-year-old 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.
I would expect Pinto to open the 2017 campaign back in Double-A, but if he mounts success in the Eastern League, where he helped Reading reach the post-season last year, it is likely he'll see some time in Triple-A before too long.
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