Tool Time: Top Curveballs

The showstopper can earn you $126 million. Barry Zito parlayed his devastating curveball into record dollars. While few have his precision, these San Diego Padres' prospects are doing their best Zito impression.

1. Jose Oyervidez

Armed with a surplus of quality pitches, Oyervidez' curveball is a knee-buckler than can send the mightiest hitters back to the dugout in disgust.

The hammer is a perfect compliment to his fastball and offers a strict change of pace. If he can master the control of his pitches he is a bona fide major leaguer.

2. Sean Thompson

Once atop this list, Thompson's curveball changed with his arm angle. What used to be a true 12-to-6 breaking ball in the Barry Zito mode became more of a two-plane curve in an effort to get more strikes called.

Even with the adjustment, Thompson can lay the curveball in at the nastiest times and get his much needed strike. He has backed off from throwing it as often and could stand to use it more on right-handers.

3. Dirk Hayhurst

Hayhurst has one of the most compact deliveries known to man but when he lays the bender in hitters often believe he has been replaced by an extra-terrestrial.

The right-hander has significant drop on his curveball and the pitch has a significant amount of spin, causing it to begin its curve soon after being released.

4. John Hussey

When the hammer comes, few have a response as the ping hits the catcher's mitt. As Hussey refined his mechanics over the last year, his curveball took flight.

Hussey's curveball has late biting action, making it one of the faster breaking hooks on the market. His ability to throw it for strikes in any count was one of the keys to his surge this past season.

5. Cesar Ramos

When Ramos is on target with the pretzel, his rhythm and timing are linked and he is dealing in a way few hitters can grasp. It does sometime take him an inning to get the feel for the pitch but is one of the best when it is on.

Ramos offers a sharp biting curveball with lots of break, snapping out of the zone at the last moment. He uses it equally against left-handers and right-handers and is one of the keys pitches that has led to success.

Also in consideration (alphabetical):

Nathan Culp
The family would be proud of his Uncle Charlie. Culp has a solid breaking ball that he can throw for strikes in any count.

Matt Huff
There are few who can throw the deuce as well as Huff. Without a top-notch fastball, Huff uses the curveball to keep hitters off-kilter.

Drew Miller
While it is still a work in progress, his ability to land the fish-hook where he wants it has been instrumental to his success.

Orlando Lara
When the number two is working, Lara is near unhittable. Consistency with the pitch will lead to more success.

Andy Underwood
The right-hander has a traditional 12-to-6 yakker that can break ankles with its long wait and good movement.

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