Prospect Watch: Top 10 Pitching Tools
1. Felix Hernandez's Curveball
Replaces the graduated Clint Nageott slider as perhaps the most un-hittable pitch in minor league baseball. Hernandez will throw the hammer in any count, and will change speeds with it as well as move the pitch around in and out of the strike zone. Don't believe me? Ask Mets uber-prospect David Wright, who saw three of them in the MLB Futures Game before taking a seat.
2. Bobby Livingston's Command and Control
With a sparkling ratio of 126 strikeouts to just 27 walks, Livingston clearly has a grip on his fastball, slider, and change. He might even be able to knock off a few flies for ya, if you asked nicely.
3. Felix Hernandez's Fastball
Consistently hitting the 95 to 98-MPH range, Felix's heater is what you'd call smoke. Junior smoke, if you will.
4. Felix Hernandez's Command and Control
With a plus-plus fastball and the sharpest breaking curve in the minors, it's really unfair that he doesn't have control issues. With a 145 strikeouts and just 38 walks, The fair police have come out in full force.
5. Jeff Heaverlo's Slider
On the shelf for nearly the entire 2004 season, Heaverlo still lays claim to a plus slider. Overuse of the pitch could be part of the reason he needed surgery two seasons ago but don't forget about Heaverlo. If he can get back on the mound, he can be more than a serviceable right-hander.
6. Thomas Oldham's Change up
The effectiveness of Oldham's change will be tested nicely in the California League. He toyed with hitters in the Midwest League to the tune of 146 strikeouts in just 127.1 innings, including 17 in 10.2 innings since jumping up a level.
7. Aaron Taylor's Fastball
When Taylor is 100% healthy, his fastball frequently visits the 95-MPH zone. As he works his way back up the velocity ladder, his low-90's heater has plenty of zip and better command than a year ago.
8. Jason Snyder's Curveball
Snyder's overhand curveball is a plus pitch for a 21-year-old with 10 games of pro experience. If his command of the pitch gets any better, we could see the Utah native vault up the prospect charts.
9. Travis Blackley's Change up
While Blackley's change has been on and off all year, it's still a great pitch and provides the left-hander with an equalizer versus right-handed hitters. As with many young pitchers, more consistency and better command is needed.
10. Aaron Jensen's Curveball
Last June's draft steal of the year for the M's has yet to hit stride in the Northwest League, and his control is the main source of the problem. When his fastball is in the 90+-MPH range, his curveball is more effective. That is when he throws both pitches over the plate at least. In the end, his curveball is his bread and butter.
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