1. Felix Hernandez Curve Ball
Perhaps the best breaking ball in the minors, Hernandez drops the hammer on right-handers or left-handers without regard to the count or the situation. When a hitter is ahead 3-0, usually he expects to see at least one fastball, which Felix has a good one (see No. 4) - not with Felix on the mound. The 19-year-old is just as likely to throw three straight 82-86 mph curveballs. And it takes a great, great pitch to overtake No. 2 on this list.
2. Clint Nageotte Slider
Nageotte's slider is so good that he can get consistent outs in the minors even if he used it exclusively. Of course, his arm would fall off if he tried that so he sets it up with a solid two-seam assortment that made the top 10. Sitting in the 84-85 mph range, the slurvy but sharp-breaking offspeed pitch is as good as there is in the system.
3. Jesse Foppert Splitter
Instead of throwing a change-up, which is a feel pitch that many never succeed in mastering, Foppert features one of the best few splitters in all of baseball, major or minor leagues. Pre-Tommy John surgery, The Bay Area native hits the 88-91 range with the split finger - when healthy.
4. Felix Hernandez Fastball
Using a two-seam version as well as a four-seamer, Hernandez mixes up location and action on his fastball. Sitting 93-97 with the four-seam variety and just a mile or two an hour off of that with the two-seam cutter style heaters, Hernandez pounds hitters up and in to set up his two plus offspeed pitches.
5. Bobby Livingston Change-up
Without a plus fastball or breaking ball, Livingston survives with good command and his plus change. Working off a heater in the 84-87 mph range, Livingston's change drops off the table at 74-77 and with top notch location. Many of the left-hander's strikeouts come via the change-up which he throws in both two and four-seam fashion to deceive hitters.
6. Felix Hernandez Change-up
A year ago, Hernandez showed the change-up a few times a night and was dominating with his fastball-curveball combo. This season his change has risen from the depths of the average pitch to become an out pitch for the right-hander. Usually sitting 80-83 mph, Hernandez's change-up could be a third plus-plus pitch - (enter shudders from across baseball here).
7. Yorman Bazardo Fastball
bazardo sits 92-95 with his fastball and touches 97 or 98 on occasion. His command is decent with the heat but his four-seamer doesn't have much movement. The 21-year-old uses a low-90s sinker to induce ground balls - and it works, as evidenced by his lower-than-expected strikeout ratios.
8. Jesse Foppert Slider
When Foppert's stock was at its peak, his slider was one of two out pitches (see No. 3 for the other) and he used it to put away hitters for the strikeout. Coupled with a plus fastball (see No. 7), Foppert's slider misses a lot of bats sitting in the 86-89 mph range.
9. Yorman Bazardo Change-up
Bazardo's weaknesses start and end with the fact that he fails to miss enough bats. For a power arm that sits low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, you'd expect better strikeout ratios. Don't blame his change-up. A solid pitch for the right-hander, his change backs up his velocity and often sets up hitters for the strikeout - even though his sinker often induces contact beforehand. Bazardo's change has been clocked in the 81-84 range, but has been known to lack a consistent velocity differential versus his fastball.
10. Clint Nageotte Fastball
In 2003, Nageotte was throwing 91-95 consistently with a four-seamer and it was setting up the nastiest slider in the minors. Since then, Nageotte has gone almost exclusively to the two-seamer to create some movement. Nageotte will occasionally use the four-seamer out of the strikezone but the two-seamer cuts and sinks its way into righties and away from lefties. Nageotte sits in the 90-93 range with the two-seamer.
Others: Mike Flannery Fastball, Stephen Kahn Fastball, Chia-an Huang Fastball, Thomas Oldham Change-up, George Sherrill Slider, Sean Green Sinker, Justin Thomas Change-up, Jason Snyder Curveball.
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