Phillies Post-2016 Top 30 Prospect Rankings: 11-15

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No. 12: Right-Handed Pitcher Ricardo Pinto

Ricardo Pinto flew through the lower levels of the Phillies minor-league system but hit a snag upon reaching Double-A Reading this season. 2016 was by far his worst statistical year, but he got progressively better as it went on.

In Pinto’s first two months of Double-A, he really struggled. In eight starts through May, Pinto carried a 4.78 ERA and 1.35 WHIP while striking out just 12.5% of opposing hitters. June and July were a bit better, as his ERA was 3.95 in 11 appearances in that span. However, he still walked 7.5% of opposing hitters.

Pinto struggled in part to the higher level of hitters he has to face in Double-A. He told Evan Webeck of, “I’ve noticed the hitters are more mature. If you throw a mistake, they’re going to make you pay…Sometimes I could get away with those mistakes in High A ball, but here I don’t get outs with the mistake pitches.”

Despite his early-season struggles, Pinto, along with his Double-A teammate Dylan Cozens, earned the opportunity to represent the Phillies at the MLB Futures Game this season. He retired two batters with the help of San Diego’s Manuel Margot, who brought back a would-be home run.

August turned out to be Pinto’s best month this season, finishing the month with a 2.84 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. He benefited from his defense, as opposing hitters had just a .169 batting average on balls in play. Pinto still walked 7.4% of batters that month, and his strikeout rate was poor at 15.6%.

Even though he struggled in-game, Pinto is still the same pitcher he always has been. He pairs his fastball that easily sits in the mid-90s with a changeup Baseball America called the best in the Phillies system in their 2016 rankings. However, Pinto’s breaking ball hasn’t progressed as hoped this year, flashing average at times but it is an overall below-average pitch. While Pinto has his control down, he doesn’t command his pitches well.

Pinto is Rule 5 eligible this offseason, and he has enough presently to stay in a bullpen for a full season and not be terrible. I can’t imagine the Phillies leaving Pinto unprotected just a year after giving him the Paul Owens Award.

Pinto will likely start 2017 back in Reading, where he should do better after a full year facing Double-A hitters. It’s hard to see him in Philadelphia before September if at all in 2017, but a 2018 arrival is likely.

If Pinto can either improve his command or his breaking ball, he could be a back-end starter. If he can improve them both, then Pinto could be an electric piece of the rotation. If he stays where he is, he could still be an effective reliever.