White Sox acquire RHP Ricardo Pinto for International Bonus Pool Space

Acquiring actual prospects for things of little tangible use has been a strategy employed by White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn over the past year. As a large market club, the White Sox were awarded $4.75 million in international bonus pool space for the 2017/2018 signing period. Due to being in the penalty for going over the spending limit in the previous signing period though, the Sox are forbidden to sign any international amateurs under the age of 25 for more than $300,000. Hahn has now made four trades for prospects using the international bonus space that he can’t use. This method of talent procurement is a bit of a market inefficiency because the club hasn’t traded anything tangible. When a club trades international pool space, it is essentially giving the receiving team the right to spend more of their own money. No actual money changes hands in the deal.

Director of International Scouting Marco Paddy has signed multiple players throughout the current signing period but the White Sox have also chosen to use some of their flexibility to acquire players further into their careers. Infielder Yeyson Yrizarri and right-handed pitchers Ryan Burr and Thyago Vieira were the three players that the White Sox have acquired in return for the opportunity for their previous clubs to spend more of their own money. Rick Hahn struck again this week and used this avenue as a form of talent acquisition.

Ricardo Pinto is a 24-year-old right-hander that was signed out of Venezuela by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. The 6’0” 165 pound Venezuelan was Designated for Assignment by the Phillies on Sunday. Pinto made his major league debut last season and threw 29.2 innings for the Phillies in 2017 while appearing in 25 contests. He was roughed up pretty good upon arriving in the big leagues and posted a 7.89 ERA. The righty yielded 39 hits and compiled 25 strikeouts while walking 17 and posting a 6.36 FIP. It’s safe to say that it didn’t go as planned for Pinto or the Phillies.

Ricardo did throw 60.2 innings in Triple-A last season while pitching for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs as well. He was 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA and started 8 games. He was moved to a bullpen role prior to being recalled to the majors. While in AAA, Pinto struck out 46 hitters and walked 18. In 2016, he went 7-6 with a 4.10 ERA while playing for Double-A Reading in the Philadelphia organization. He threw 156 innings that season. After signing as an amateur in 2011, he cruised through the lower levels of the Phillies system. The Venezuelan consistently posted ERA’s in the low-to-mid 2’s before arriving in Double-A.

Scouting: 

In February of 2017, Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs ranked Pinto as the #32 prospect in a solid Philadelphia farm system. Longenhagen puts a 60 future value on the right-handers fastball and changeup. The veteran prospect evaluator notes that he lacks a third pitch however and has given his curveball a 40 present value grade. Longenhagen stated that Pinto is undersized but sits 90-94 with his fastball and often touches 96 mph. He also notes that Pinto’s fastball is “straight and planeless” echoing concerns that it may not play in the majors. The Fangraphs’ write-up mentions that Pinto’s “above-average changeup” could be a plus pitch at its peak. It was said that he throws enough strikes to start but his stuff played down after multiple times through the order. Longenhagen thinks that the lack of a third pitch could prevent him from sticking in a rotation down the road but noted that a 60 grade fastball and changeup is more than enough to profile out of the bullpen.

In 2016, mlbpipeline.com ranked Pinto as the #15 prospect in the Phillies system. The publication noted that Ricardo stood out immediately as a 20-year-old in the New York-Penn League and was named as the Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the Philadelphia organization in 2015. They call Pinto a “strike-thrower with an outstanding changeup” but noted that his persistent work on a third pitch was a large reason why he had some struggles at higher levels of the minor leagues. At the time, the right-hander was seen as having the upside of a mid-rotation starter down the road. All the way back in 2014, prospect writer Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs offered some insight into the then 20-year-old’s mindset on the mound. In a piece reviewing the Phillies system, he relayed that scouts described Pinto as being “mean as shit” and “having huge balls” while on the mound.

Some video of Pinto while at AA Reading in the Philadelphia Organization

Pinto’s First Major League Strikeout

More Footage from Pinto at AA Reading courtesy of 2080Baseball.com

When the White Sox acquired Pinto it was easy to assume that Hahn was continuing to use international bonus pool space that couldn’t be used anyway to try and load up on potential impact relievers. James Fegan of The Athletic thought as much and was chided by the White Sox General Manager for being unfamiliar with the Venezuelan hurler.

So while Ricardo Pinto’s major league future may ultimately wind up being in the bullpen, the White Sox General Manager is not in a rush to make that move. The right-hander will begin the season in the starting rotation with the Winston-Salem Dash in High A. It should surprise no one if Pinto is moved up the ranks very quickly. There’s a solid chance that Pinto pitches in the big leagues again in 2018 and this trade could provide another example of the White Sox front office using multiple avenues to extract value for future success.

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