Tool Time: Top Changeups

There is a reason the San Diego Padres teach the changeup to every one of their pitchers. If you need an answer – see Johan Santana. While no one is expecting Santana to come out of the Padres' system, these prospects offer up a junk ball that knocks hitters out of their comfort zone.

Wade LeBlanc

Filthy – dirty – foul – and we aren't talking about his laundry. The southpaw has two changeups and both are nasty. Both have late breaking action that keeps hitters off-balance and each is a true swing-and-miss pitch.

He has one that will baffle hitters who think it is falling out of the zone or a second that gets them chasing the parachute that is looking to lace the seams with dirt.

Manny Ayala

It doesn't matter what the count is, what the situation is, or who is up to bat – Ayala uses his changeup without regard for the competition and its effectiveness enables him to pitch out of jams.

He has such command of the pitch and always trusts where it will end up. His junk ball is thrown with the same pitching motion as his fastball, and because he has such fine control over the rest of his arsenal, he can expand the zone with the let-up pitch and get batters rolling over.

Euclides Viloria

Pitching in a league where fastballs ruled, Viloria was an enigma to the opposition. Although his changeup is a relatively new pitch, the left-hander already has an above average one.

His slow ball has great sinking action that gets hitters chasing outside of the strike zone. At just 17 years old, Viloria's changeup could be a special pitch that gets outs for a long time.

R.J. Rodriguez

Late inning relievers aren't supposed to have a changeup that compliments the fastball so well. Setting up hitters with his heater, Rodriguez uses the changeup as a put-away pitch.

While his fastball tips the scales in the low-90s, the changeup has the same appearance and comes in around 15 MPH slower, making it impossible for a hitter to wait for the pitch before committing.

Orlando Lara

With a fastball that runs in the low-90s, Lara has a changeup that comes in at softball speed and almost has the appearance of a curveball.

His ability to throw it for strikes in any count often has hitters bailing on the parachute without a safety net.

Honorable mention:

Nathan Culp

A master of control, Culp has a mean changeup that just isn't fair to the opposition, especially when you consider he has four other pitches he can go to.

Alexis Lara

With his deceptive delivery and the ball coming out of his shirt, hitters are often expecting fastball. When the slip is delivered, hitters are already on their front foot trying to stop their swing with little success.

Rolando Valdez

Normally one of the top five, Valdez' parachute digressed this year as he lost the feel to throw the pitch effectively for strikes. He does, however, have a good one when it is on.

Mat Latos

His pitch was more of a splitter than a changeup but the spiking action late made it a special pitch – even if it has been abandoned for a straight changeup. With his fastball, he could be on this list just by being able to toss the changeup for strikes.

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