2014 TigsTools: Best Breaking Ball

After trading away the top three pitchers (Jonathon Crawford, Jake Thompson, Corey Knebel) from last year’s list, the Tigers have a new crop of arms, including two new draft picks in the Top 5. Check inside to see who took top billing among the breaking balls.

Best Breaking Ball
1. Spencer Turnbull (RHP)
2. Adam Ravanelle (RHP)
3. Austin Kubitza (RHP)
4. Joe Jimenez (RHP)
5. Jose Valdez (RHP)

Much like the prior number one on this list, Jonathon Crawford, Turnbull’s slider immediately became one of the best in the system the second he signed his first professional contract. At his best, Turnbull has the ability to snap off sliders with good velocity, tight spin, and plus tilt, making them legitimate bat missing offerings. Similarly, fellow SEC righty Adam Ravanelle has shown consistent above-average to plus sliders when he’s been on the bump.

With Austin Kubitza, the primary attraction is the quality of the slider, allowing him to have massive success at lower levels of the minor leagues, and possibly carving a path to the big leagues. Kubitza’s is a quality pitch with above-average to plus potential, and it plays well off his below-average fastball.

Both true relievers, Jimenez and Valdez have potential quality secondary pitches that can miss bats. Valdez’s slider is a harder, tighter breaking ball that fits with his aggressive style on the mound and high-effort delivery. Jimenez made strides with his slider as the season went along, as it developed from a looser, sweepy slider, to a tighter, more traditional slide piece. Both pitchers could have above-average breakings balls to play well with their 70-grade fastballs.

Honorable Mention
Gabe Hemmer (RHP)
Josh Laxer (RHP)
Kevin Ziomek (LHP)

As newcomers to the list, both Hemmer and Laxer have the type of slider that works well in late inning relief. Hemmer relies heavily on his slider, throwing it over 50% of the time, and the pitch has enough quality to miss bats and set up his fastball. Laxer’s slider needs refinement to settle in as an above-average offering, but he should get there if he can gain consistency with his mechanics. Left-hander Kevin Ziomek has improved his delivery and more consistently pumps average breaking balls as part of his four-pitch mix.

Projection Kings
Johan Belisario(RHP)
Carlos Lara(RHP)

After a highly successful season with short-season Connecticut, Belisario impressed some scouts with his short breaker that induced frequent weak contact and missed bats among the inexperienced hitters of the NYPL. Lara’s slider has true plus potential with additional consistency, and when he was on during the GCL season, he was too much for the hitters of the league to handle.


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