2013 TigsTools: Best Breaking Ball

With the plethora of big arms in the Tigers system, one would expect to see some impressive breaking balls along the way, however the Tigers have had a penchant for developing feel for quality changeups before breaking balls come along. The organization still has a handful of top notch breaking pitches floating around, and those pitches are detailed inside!

Best Breaking Ball
1. Jonathon Crawford (RHP)
2. Jake Thompson (RHP)
3. Corey Knebel (RHP)
4. Austin Kubitza (RHP)
5. Jose Valdez (RHP)

The second he entered the Tigers minor league system, Crawford drew consideration for the best breaking ball in the ranks, and his showing in short-season ball cemented him in the top spot on this list. With a sharp two-plane slider that can miss bats in and out of the strike zone, Crawford has the second high-end pitch to dominate lineups in any role.

Thompson and Knebel both overpowered hitters with their breaking balls last summer. Thompson's slider was far too advanced for Low-A hitters and he relied on it heavily throughout his season at West Michigan. As he gains consistency with his command of the pitch, Thompson has a chance to own a true plus slider. Knebel's curveball earned plenty of plus grades this summer, but he is still learning to throw the pitch where he wants it, and that step will take him easily into the plus range for good.

Another recent draftee, Austin Kubitza offers a sweeping single-plane slider that can befuddle hitters and helps setup his below-average fastball. Valdez brings another top notch slider to the table and he has a chance to have an above-average to plus breaker at his peak.

Honorable Mention
Endrys Briceno (RHP)
Confesor Lara (RHP)
Kyle Lobstein (LHP)
Melvin Mercedes (RHP)

Much of Endrys Briceno's profile centers around projection, and that is very true when considering his breaking ball. While he has an impressive fastball and has quickly gained a feel for his changeup, the curveball still lags behind but could be an average to solid-average pitch down the line.

Confesor Lara is a new name on the prospect landscape, but his above-average fastball is complimented by a quickly improving slider that could be above-average down the line.

Both Lobstein and Mercedes showed useable breaking balls in 2013, with Lobstein's curveball being the better pitch of the two. He shows a willingness to throw it in any count and is beginning to learn when and how to tempt hitters with his breaking ball out of the zone for flailing swings.

Projection Kings
Johan Belisario (RHP)
Joe Jimenez (RHP)

The crispness of Belisario's breaking ball jumped in 2013 as he moved to short bursts in the late innings, and with another year of experience, scouts believe he could begin to show a more consistently above-average breaker. Jimenez is an intriguing prospect with a chance to be a mid-rotation workhorse, and his slider has a chance to miss bats as he improves his consistency and command with the pitch.


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