3/24/2016 8:09:50 AM
It falls under the category of Completely Miscellaneous Historical Speculation but Riley Pint probably did something that no high school player, and indeed, likely no baseball player period, has ever done before.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in suburban Kansas City hit a grand slam home run and touched 99 mph on the radar gun. In the first inning of his game of the year. Think about the chances of that happening!
The game was played under seasonally comfortable conditions with temperatures in the low 70's with a stiff breeze blowing out to left field and just hours before a cold front hammered Kansas City. The hype around Pint in the area was such that the game was being televised by a local sports cable station. The hype surrounding Pint in the scouting community was such that there were an estimated 65-75 scouts in attendance, including the scouting directors for the Reds (second overall pick) and Braves (third). The Phillies, who have the first overall pick, had cross checkers at the field.
Pint's grand slam in the top of the first inning was an absolute bomb, traveling an estimated 410-420 feet to left centerfield, helped a bit by the aforementioned breeze. The irony is that Pint came up again in the same inning and again with the bases loaded. After one mighty Ruthian cut (and a sheepish grin when he missed) that left no doubt as to his intentions, Pint drew a walk for another RBI. St. Thomas Aquinas led 9-0 before they took the field, leaving the scouting assembly to provide Pint's motivation instead of the scoreboard.
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.
The biggest revelation of the outing, however, was Pint's changeup, which he threw 8-10 times almost all at 88 mph. Throwing an 88 mph changeup to high school hitters seems at the surface to be doing them a big favor but the movement and location on the pitch made it no favor. 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. I was seated a bit off to the side and had to ask a friend directly behind the plate if it was indeed a slider. He said definitely not, that it was a changeup.
Pint's curveball, which he threw maybe 6 times and primarily in strikeout counts, was a third pitch that showed plus at times. It was mostly 83 mph from a consistent release point and arm speed as his fastball and had big hard biting action about half the time.
The wildness that plagued Pint at times during the summer wasn't there. He had some issues finding his curveball release point warming up in the bullpen but threw some extras and found it by the time he went to the mound. He didn't walk a hitter in the game while striking out seven.
Overall, it was as impressive a pitching performance as I ever recall seeing for a high school pitcher, especially considering the time of year and location. It brought to mind Josh Beckett in high school, when Beckett would regularly throw 94-96 with an unhittable curveball. Except Beckett would always throw two or three changeups between innings to show scouts that the pitch was there. Pint went out and showed that changeup in the game with outstanding effect.
Jason Groome will reportedly make his first start of the season on April 1. Pint has already laid down his benchmark as a potential number one overall pick (and notably, perhaps the first high school right hander ever selected first overall). It will be interesting to see how Groome answers.