While there are a few good bats sprinkled in among the top prospects eligible for this year's MLB draft, pitching appears to be the name of the game in 2016. Mock drafts have projected as many as six or seven pitchers to be taken among the top 10 picks this year. Florida lefthander A.J. Puk is the odds-on favorite to go first overall, but no pitcher has received as much attention as hard-throwing righthander Riley Pint.
Once projected as the No. 1 overall prospect in this year's draft, Pint, a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kansas, currently ranks at No. 4 overall, according to Baseball America. The Detroit Tigers are hoping he falls farther than that, though. Multiple draft experts, including ESPN's Keith Law, have reported that the Tigers will not pass on the prep righthander if he is available at No. 9 overall.
If you're wondering why the Tigers are so interested in Pint, look no further: Pint has a monster fastball, which is rumored to have gotten as high as 102 miles per hour on the radar gun. He hit a confirmed 99 mph on the gun in his spring debut in 2016, which left Perfect Game's David Rawnsley quite impressed.
Pint's three innings on the mound were nothing short of spectacular. He pitched at 95-99 mph in the first inning and settled in at 93-96 for the next two frames. Pint struggled at times last summer to throw strikes with his fastball but he seemed to be throwing with less effort and more compact mechanics this time out. He did miss high a couple of times but was generally pounding his fastball downhill to the lower quadrants of the zone well. His arm action in particular seemed to be a bit more compact than when I've previously seen him and it worked very well for him.
Rawnsley goes on to wax poetic about Pint's changeup, a pitch that has drawn mixed reviews. Baseball America's Hudson Belinsky went into detail after an outing at the Perfect Game National Showcase in June 2015.
Pint’s offspeed stuff lacked the pizazz of his heater, but he shows promise with two offspeed pitches. He threw all three of his pitches with the same arm action, giving his breaking ball and changeup fastball tilt as they came out of the hand...The breaking ball projects as at least an above-average pitch, and it will be an interesting weapon to monitor going forward. His third pitch was a changeup, and he threw it only once—to open an at-bat against a righthanded hitter. The pitch was not exceptional, and he missed the zone a little bit low, but he was able to plop it in down and to his glove-side.
The reviews on Pint's command and secondary stuff don't seem rosy, but this is typical for high school pitchers. They don't often need a second pitch to blow away their prep competition, and velocity remains king when it comes to determining draft position.
Pint could be special, though. ESPN's Keith Law called Pint "as gifted a teenage arm as I've ever seen," and likens his arm and body type to that of Justin Verlander. Baseball Prospectus' Chris Crawford hints at the same in his 2016 draft guide, saying "If this ended up as an 80 fastball, I wouldn't be stunned."
There are flaws, to be sure. Pint's mechanics aren't the best, according to scouting reports, and this could mean trouble for his durability. Our friends at Viva El Birdos are skeptical too.
Here's my problem with Pint: I said he throws hard, and the delivery doesn't necessarily look like it should generate the kind of velocity it does. Well, when a pitcher is throwing extremely hard and it looks effortless, chances are that power has to be coming from somewhere, and it's often due to a very delayed arm action. Pint has that delay in spades, and while it's probably responsible for his huge velocity and current prospect status, I also would be very worried about his long-term durability.
It's worth noting that the Tigers have largely been able to keep their top pitching prospects away from serious arm injuries, but it's also worth noting that they haven't had a prospect with Pint's combination of youth and premium velocity enter the farm system in a long, long time (if ever). Pint will be a project for any team that calls his name on draft night, but the risk could ultimately pay off in a big, big way.