The Colorado Rockies have a big decision to make before the Rule 5 Draft coming up in early December. Should they place former first-round draft pick Riley Pint on their 40-man roster, thus protecting him from being drafted by another team? Or should they not protect him, assuming no other team is willing to take a chance on Pint, a fourth overall pick who has been a bust so far? And if another team were to draft him, how much really would be lost? Is it time to quit throwing good money after bad?
Club officials have continued to express faith in Pint, even as recently as instructional league last month in Arizona. But this Pint-sized decision is a big one, as the 6-4 high schooler has grown into a 6-7, 23-year-old man who retains impressive stuff, the best fastball in the system according to MLB Pipeline, but lacks control and command.
That, plus injuries, is why Pint has yet to pitch above A ball.
Pint has lagged behind his peers drafted in 2016, among them Ian Anderson, A.J. Puk, Forrest Whitley, Braxton Garrett, Cal Quantrill, Matt Manning, Jay Groome, Justin Dunn, T.J. Zeuch, Eric Lauer, Zack Burdi, Dane Dunning, Anthony Kay and Dakota Hudson. Some of these have been plagued by injuries or inconsistency as well, but all have either thrown in big-league ball or are closer to the majors than Pint.
Pint has thrown just 156 innings in four professional seasons since graduating from high school in Overland Park, Kansas. Only 26 of those innings were in the prior two years before this Covid campaign, which he spent at the Rockies’ alternative site. Forearm stiffness and an oblique injury limited him to just four appearances in 2018. Shoulder tendinitis curbed his 2019 season.
When Pint has pitched, he has shown flashes of brilliance marred by walks, hit batters and wild pitches. The lack of innings means a lack of consistency as well. Still, he remains the #29 prospect on our Prospects1500 Colorado Rockies Top 50 this past year. I’m working on the new Rox Top 50 for 2021 and we’ll know where he lands on that list in January.
The Rockies’ brass has stood by him and his potential. That, however, will be more difficult now. Putting Pint on the 40-man roster means less maneuverability for the team next season. Still, there is hope. Perhaps he could be developed as a reliever.
The one advantage to taking the risk of not protecting Pint is that any team who drafts a Rule 5 player must keep them on the major-league roster all of 2021. No one surmises that Pint has major league value in 2021.
Others who must be protected or subjected to the Rule 5 draft include:
Colton Welker, 23, has played first and third base since being drafted in the fourth round in 2016 out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs, Florida. After batting .300-plus during his first three years in the Rockies system, Welker had 10 HR and a .252 batting average during an injury-shortened 98-game season at AA Hartford in 2019. But the #5 prospect on our Prospects1500 Colorado Rockies Top 50 this year seems assured of being included on the 40-man roster.
Daniel Montano is a 21-year-old Venezuelan who signed for $2 million in 2015. He has struggled with the hit tool but did steal 17 bases while batting .218 at Low-A Asheville in 2019. Is our #18 prospect still seen as major-league material in center field?
Helcris Olivarez, 20, was signed for a $77,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2016 and is #21 on the Rockies Top 50 this year. Olivarez had 61 strikeouts in 46.2 innings at rookie-level Grand Junction in 2019 and performed well at alternate camp this year. He’s got the look of a power lefty reliever and is likely to be rostered.
The Rockies would hate to lose Bret Boswell, the #31 prospect on our list. But the eighth-round draft pick out of the University of Texas in 2017 is now 26 and, after hitting everywhere, he struggled at AA Hartford in 2019. Once a second baseman he’s now viewed primarily as an outfielder and the Rockies have plenty of those.
Alan Trejo, 24, made the Eastern League All-Star team after a good first half at AA Hartford in 2019 and ended with 15 homers. But the #47 prospect on our list is seen as, at best, a utility infielder. While he could be useful this season in Denver, the Rockies may take a chance that he will not be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
Ever Moya, a 6-4, 220-pound right-hander signed out of Panama in 2016, is a tough call. He seemed to find his way in 2019 at rookie ball Grand Junction, striking out 43 in 29.1 innings and allowing only 23 hits. The Rockies like him but unless they make room on their 40-man roster — now at 38 players — he likely won’t make it.