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2016 Phillies Draft Preview: Riley Pint, RHP

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Pint has one historically good tool and other developing tools, his one great tool, may be enough alone in most years for him to go First Overall, and he has to be one of the considerations this year.

I'm amazed how many of these draft prospects I'm finding pics of.
I'm amazed how many of these draft prospects I'm finding pics of.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Pint is a 6'4", 195 lb, High School Right Hander from the Kansas City suburbs with a College commitment to LSU - a school he is pretty unlikely to ever actually attend. Pint is a two sport athlete, or he was until this winter when he dropped Basketball, fearing a twisted ankle could cost him a few million dollars and a shot at pro-baseball. The good news about him being a two-sport star is less wear and tear on his Pitching arm/shoulder. The bad news is that he's a bit more raw because of it. Pint's recent focus on baseball alone has lead to some refinement of those raw edges and has also lead to him having one rather historic trait that could lead to him making history as the first High School Right Hander ever to get selected #1 overall.

First let's discuss the historic part of his improvement. Two years ago Tyler Kolek was all the rage because he was throwing 98 mph leading up to the Draft. Despite having middling secondary stuff and nonexistent Command, he went Second Overall to the Marlins (and he has pitched largely like a guy not really sure where his stuff is going). This Spring Riley Pint showed up on the prospect circuit and his High School season throwing as high as 102 mph, per reports. That's an elite grade 80 Fastball. There are only a handful of people on the planet capable of throwing a ball that hard, so kudos for that, but it's useless if it's straight or if you have no idea where it's going. In the first case, guys will tee off on it in the pros. In the second case, no one will bother swinging at it and just take their free base. Pint typically works in the 94-98 mph range and he gets late tail on his fastball in that range. Like most Pitchers his stuff flattens a bit when he overthrows, which I imagine is happening with the 102 mph fastballs (though I haven't seen that addressed specifically).

Against even the best High School players a 102 mph fastball is just plain unfair. Even if arrow straight a 16-18 year old who could make consistent contact with that would be right in the #1 overall discussion with Pint. Largely for that reason, Pint, like most high level HS pitchers, has off speed stuff that lags a bit behind his Fastball and needs development. The Curse of the big Fastball for High Schoolers is that they can go entire games throwing solely that big Fastball without having to worry about anyone knowing what's coming. They can then throw one or two mediocre Curves or Changeups a game and make hitters look foolish flailing at the wrong pitch. Pint has a little of that, as both his Changeup and slurvy Curveball have been below average. I had mentioned above that his new focus on Baseball full time rounded off some rough edges and the Curve is one of those. Previous reports had him throwing his Curve from an obviously different arm slot than his other Pitches and the pitch acting more like a Slider. Reports this spring have the Curve moving to a higher arm slot with his Fastball and the action being a true 12-6 hammer Curve with good break. Reports make it sound Average now, but with Plus potential. He can currently Control it pretty well from the 2 game reports I've seen, but he still throws it sparingly and it's too small a sample to know how well he commands it and if the improvements are permanent. Still, he's an athletic kid, so I'd tend to believe he can make it stick. Some reports have labeled it a "Knuckle-Curve", sometimes called a "Spike Curve". What that means is that one or more of the fingers holding the ball is bent so that the back of the knuckle or the tip of the finger is pressed against the leather of the ball. This creates a tight spin. Not too many guys throw this one and a few have had to abandon it for blister issues. To me Pint's grip doesn't look like a Knuckle Curve (though Groome throws one).

Pint's other lacking pitch was his Changeup. It was slightly ahead of the Curve last year showing Above-Average potential and Pint was willing to throw it in any count against the top hitters he faced in the Under Armour game last year. Prior reports noted a slightly different arm slot from his fastball with about a 10 mph difference in Pitch speed from his Fastball and only a few mph faster than his Slurve, at that time. What Pint actually throws is a Circle Change, meaning his index finger and thumb form a circle on the side of the ball. By pronating the wrist or adjusting the middle and ring fingers closer to the inside of the ball the Pitcher can cause more or less movement on the pitch and alter to which side of the plate the movement is to. This movement is especially effective against opposite side hitters and prevents some platoon split (one of the values of Cole Hamels throwing a very good circle change). The problem is that pitches which move a lot and can be moved by such small tweaks to grip and release can take a while to master locating. The pitch has Above-Average potential, but if his Fastball and Curve end up reaching their ceiling, this really only needs to be an average pitch to be very effective.

One thing I haven't been very fond of with Pint is his delivery. Pint isn't a drop and drive Pitcher who uses his legs. He stays very upright and most of his velocity comes from his upper body. Some will note this as an injury concern, but injuries can be fluky and guys with perfect form can get injury prone and guys with bad form can stay clean for years. On a more practical level the delivery is concerning because guys who stay that tall can tend to leave pitches up in the zone more and often have more trouble refining their Command. It also means there could be more velocity if he used his legs more (though at 102 mph, we're likely talking diminishing returns there). Here's a clip of him from this Spring cranking out a 99.3 mph Fastball (flat and high).

I don't like the landing on a bolt straight leg and lack of any real follow through in his mechanics. (Video Courtesy Joshua Payton) The next video from Prospect Pipeline is a bit older, from the Perfect Game National showcase (as I read the description, that would be the event last summer). Pint is all over the place, but mostly he tends to be high to his arm side (sometimes very high). The angle is good to see some of the life on his pitches, but this is his developing Curve in the video and would rank below average if this was all you saw of it.

Lastly I'll finish off with some notes from his first outing of the year. For context these come from the Perfect Game website. They're worth a full read, I sometimes find their reports to be pretty positive on every player, but generally quite fair. In this case he notes how much Pint improved his location after the problems you can see in the video above last Summer. The most encouraging passage to me was PG's take on his Changeup:

Pint manipulated the grip to where he alternately got both standard changeup fade and run but other times created cutter/slider type action on the pitch.

The report also raved a bit about Pint's control of the pitch. If true that sounds like the makings of a third potentially Plus pitch. Ultimately there is a fair bit of risk here and of the prospects I've written about so far, Pint would need the most time in the Minors (maybe 3-4 years to iron out the mechanics and perhaps even add a fourth pitch to the mix), but the ceiling is #1 Starter, with a very realistic fallback of a #2 Starter. If you're a pessimist you see the mechanics and think he's a future reliever or worse a future M.A.S.H. unit. There's a pretty wide delta and you'd be gambling a bit for sure. In a draft with no standout prospects he's got a shot at the top because the payoff on that bet is pretty high if you hit.