Name: Eduard Pinto
DOB: October 23, 1994 (18)
Acquired: 2011 International Free Agent (Venezuela)
Although he's certainly not the Texas Rangers' most physically imposing prospect, outfielder Eduard Pinto has always been ahead of the curve for his age.
At the time he inked with the Rangers, Pinto flew under the radar because he signed in the same class––and on the same day, no less––as high-profile position players Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara.
Pinto's reported bonus between $300,000 and $350,000 was much less than Guzman and Mazara's combined $8.4 million haul. Still, it was nothing to sneeze at, especially given Pinto's physical stature.
At the time of his signing, Pinto was regarded as an undersized player with an advanced all-around game––particularly his feel for hitting; that hasn't changed. MiLB.com lists him at 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, and the Rangers' in-house Dominican Summer League roster last season had him at 5-foot-9, 164 pounds.
Pinto initially made a name for himself when he played––and stood out––in Liga Paralela (the Venezuelan winterball minor leagues) as a 15-year-old prospect, hitting .329/.396/.409 with 13 steals in 164 at-bats. He had 13 doubles and drew 19 walks while striking out just 11 times. Pinto played very well against competition that was generally much older than him.
The left-handed hitter and thrower impressed his winterball club so much that he was able to suit up with the big team––the Navegantes del Magallanes––for a game just one month after his 16th birthday––before he was even eligible to sign with an MLB organization. Pinto filled in as a late-inning defensive replacement for injured outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.
After signing with the Rangers, the Venezuela native reported to the club's complex in the Dominican Republic, and he remained there until making his official pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last season.
With the stats being counted once again, Pinto didn't disappoint. In fact, the 5-foot-9 prospect was arguably the circuit's most impressive hitter. He captured the Dominican Summer League's batting title by hitting .396 in 56 contests. His .475 on-base percentage ranked second in the league, his .477 slugging percentage 12th, and his .953 OPS fourth.
It's no secret that Dominican Summer League numbers don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Top prospect Jorge Alfaro batted just .221 with one home run during his season there, while Myrtle Beach catcher Tomas Telis hit .299 with a walk total that remains a career best. Regardless, Pinto flashed his mature feel for hitting and approach, drawing 31 walks while whiffing just 13 times in those 56 contests.
After his debut regular season concluded, Pinto made his first trip to Arizona for the Rangers' fall instructional league. He once again impressed and stood out against the older competition.
The Rangers allowed Pinto to return to his native Venezuela after instructs so he could play winterball. It proved to be a beneficial experience, as the 18-year-old prospect got six games for the ‘big' Magallanes club this offseason, going 2-for-7 with a double and a strikeout at the plate.
After making those mid-to-late October cameos for the eventual Venezuelan champions (the club recently represented Venezuela in the Serie del Caribe), Pinto returned to Liga Paralela for an 11-game stint to close his long season.
In those 11 games (nine starts) for the Navegantes' parallel team, Pinto went 10-for-33 (.303) with three doubles and a triple. He walked twice, was plunked once, and struck out four times.
Also See: Rangers' July 2 haul taking shape (July 25, 2011)
Texas Rangers Top 50 Prospects (January 12, 2013)
Hitting and Power: Flashing a potential 60-grade (plus) hit tool, the lefty swinging Pinto is an excellent pure hitter with a quick bat, tremendous balance, and a short path to the ball. Despite his small 5-foot-9 frame, most scouts believe those attributes will enable him to handle plus velocity just fine as he rises through the minor league ranks.
He's also a very mature hitter; Pinto claimed the DSL batting title by hitting .396 last season, drawing 31 walks and striking out just 13 times in 56 games. Showing good pitch recognition and a disciplined, all-fields approach from his short stroke, he should remain a high-contact hitter even as he's challenged by more advanced arms. Pinto's small stature will likely keep him from hitting for much power. It's a well below-average (30-grade) tool, as he profiles for some gap-to-gap punch but little over-the-fence pop.
Base Running and Speed: Given his overall profile, speed is probably the biggest thing missing from Pinto's skill set––he's a below-average (40-grade) runner at present. Pinto receives high marks for his work ethic from the Rangers, who believe there's at least a possibility he can improve his speed enough to be average down the road. His instincts should enable him to grab some steals, but in the grand scheme, he shouldn't be a serious threat on the base paths.
Defense: Pinto's lack of speed keeps him from profiling as a full-time centerfielder. A polished defender who gets good reads and has a quick first step, the Venezuelan plays some center now because his instincts and actions––hands, transfer, body control, and feet––are all well advanced. But he profiles best in a corner spot, where he should have a 60-grade glove. Pinto's instincts and actions are amplified in the corner, as he doesn't quite need the rangy/plus gap-to-gap wheels that he would in center. His average arm strength (with good accuracy and mechanics) is enough to play at any of the spots.
Projection: Pinto's profile is extremely reliant on his bat, as he's not a premium runner or defender. He'll have to hit his way up the ladder, but he has the potential to do so. A prospect with outstanding work ethic and makeup, he'll play the entire 2013 season at age 18 and should perform well at the lower levels. Like any young player––and particularly one with Pinto's skill set––he's a bit difficult to project. Pinto could simply be a solid upper-level minor leaguer, he could be a role 4 up-and-down guy/reserve outfielder, or perhaps the hit tool carries him enough to become a second-division regular. The first two options may be most likely with the third being his ceiling. Either way, the picture should become more clear over the next couple years.
2013 Outlook: Pinto will make his official state-side debut this season. Almost certainly ticketed for extended spring training, he'll remain at the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona until the short-season clubs kick off in June. Pinto should have the all-around polish to earn an assignment to Spokane in June, and he's advanced enough to perform well there. In fact, it'd be a bit of a surprise if Pinto didn't succeed at the short-season levels given his advanced offensive skill set.
|2012||DSL Rangers (DSL)||.396||222||13||1||29||47||8/14||31||13||.475||.477|