Tool Time: Top Fastballs for Relievers

The most important pitch in baseball – no matter who you ask – is still the fastball. While it is true you can't teach velocity, movement and location are even more important. These San Diego Padres prospects are attempting to boast a combination of the three.

Matt Bush

What surprised many insiders wasn't the velocity of his fastball but how quickly it came back and the relative ease with which he threw the pitch.

Bush was hitting 98 MPH with his heater before his injury and was commanding it to all four quadrants of the plate and keeping it down in the zone. Provided he makes a full recovery, his fastball alone will enable him to move quickly.

Wilton Lopez

His location and movement separate him from the pack. He rarely walks anyone and has great tailing action down in the zone on a fastball that hits the mid-90s.

Lopez has tremendous confidence in the express and it shows. Because of its movement, he can throw it at the middle of the plate and let its natural movement make hitters uncomfortable.

Ernesto Frieri

It took one minor adjustment this past season to get Ernesto Frieri up from his 89-90 MPH to 94-95, hitting 93 consistently. With his impressive command of the pitch, his stock rose exponentially.

There have been games where Frieri throws little else besides the smoke ball and still finds a way to get outs. He will have to use his secondary pitches more as he enters the higher levels.

Paul Abraham

Everything he throws is hard – a fastball that hits the mid-90s and a slider that drops in about 10 miles per hour slower. He has improved his command over the last year and was an important six-year free agent re-sign.

Abraham has always possessed solid stuff and is a competitor on the mound. He strives off pressure situations and is not afraid to come inside, making his fogger appear even faster.

Jared Wells

A power pitcher, Wells has found a home in the pen with a fastball that hits 94 MPH and a hard slider that darts out of the zone. His ability to go all out in short spurts has proved to be a difference maker.

Wells has always had some pitch sequencing problems but those issues are long gone now that he is in the bullpen. He comes hard most of the time and his fastball command has improved as well.

Honorable mention:

R.J. Rodriguez

The difference between his fastball and plus changeup is about 25 MPH. That is not fair. With a heater that hits 93 MPH, Rodriguez has the upper hand on the competition.

Rolando Valdez

A former outfielder, Valdez was converted to the mound several years ago because of his arm. He has shown a plus changeup at times, making his fastball even better.

Pascual Juan

Wondering why he isn't first? Command issues have plagued him and he doesn't have that killer instinct on the mound that a pitcher with a 98 MPH fastball should possess.

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