See Also: 2016 League Top 20 Index
See Also: League Top 20 Prospects Historical Index
Great Falls (White Sox), 47-28 (.627)
|Most Valuable Player
Meibrys Viloria, c, Idaho Falls (Royals)
|Pitcher OF The Year
Aron McRee, rhp, Great Falls (White Sox)
|Did Not Qualify
Matt Thaiss, 1b, Orem (Angels)
Kansas high school righthander Riley Pint and Oklahoma righthander Alec Hansen were both candidates to be top draft picks in 2016 this spring. While neither went No. 1 overall, both flashed big-time potential in their Rookie-level Pioneer League debuts to rank as the circuit’s top two prospects, with Rockies first-rounder Pint claiming top honors.
For a league known more for its extreme hitter’s parks, several other pitchers stood out for their exploits. Great Falls’ Aaron McRee (White Sox), a nondrafted free agent out of Division II Montevallo (Ala.), was the pitcher of the year after going 5-0, 2.16 with an exemplary 54-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Teammate Yosmer Solorzano was part of two no-hitters within a 15-day span, the second of which was a rain-shortened, five-inning game, as Great Falls won a league-best 47 games.
Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria (Royals) captured MVP honors while leading the league in average (.376), doubles (28) and RBIs (55). Helena first baseman Ronnie Gideon, the Brewers’ 23rd-round pick from Texas A&M, led the circuit in slugging (.638) and home runs (17).
Orem swept Billings in a best-of-three series to claim the league championship, using a reinforced lineup after most of the team’s best prospects were promoted to low Class A Burlington during the regular season. The Owlz, who knocked off Salt Lake City-area rival Ogden to advance to the final round, bested the Mustangs with outstanding pitching performances from a pair of teenagers, Sam Pastrone and Jose Suarez.
In addition to Pint, three other first-round picks made their pro debuts in the league—third baseman Nick Senzel (Billings), first baseman Matt Thaiss (Orem) and catcher Will Smith (Odgen)—but did not get enough playing time to qualify for the prospect list. Another Dodgers first-round pick, shortstop Gavin Lux, finished his pro debut season with eight games for Ogden after finishing his AZL season.
1. Riley Pint, rhp, Grand Junction (Rockies) |
The Rockies drafted Pint fourth overall, signed him for $4.8 million and sent him to the PL, their lowest-level affiliate. While inconsistent in his pro debut, he was the second-youngest pitcher to qualify for the league ERA title and showed his enormous potential at times, reinforcing his projection as a true frontline starter. On any given day he can take three plus pitches to the mound, including a fastball that often reaches triple digits and sits at 95-99 mph.
“When he throws all his pitches somewhere in the strike zone he’s almost unhittable,” Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales said.
Aside from his top-of-the-scale fastball, Pint also throws an 80-83 mph power curveball and a hard 87-88 changeup that received plus grades prior to the draft. He generally repeats his high three-quarters arm slot, albeit with some effort. At times he gets quick in the delivery with runners on base, something he diligently worked to correct during his bullpen sessions with pitching coach Ryan Kibler.
“He’s hungry for how he can be more efficient,” Gonzales said. “His bullpen sessions are top notch.”