Organization's Top Fastballs

Since the switchover from Randy Smith to Dave Dombrowski three years ago, the organization has seen one extreme change in the farm system – a shift in philosophy concerning pitchers. While the Smith era favored lighter throwing control artists, Dombrowski has focused on hard throwers with high ceilings. In turn, the organization has plenty of fastballs that would qualify as top notch.

Steve Colyer was acquired in Spring Training, and instantly became the hardest throwing left hander in the organization. Unfortunately, while Colyer could hit the upper 90's on the radar gun, his control wasn't anywhere near where it needs to be, and because of this he became increasingly unreliable for the Tigers. His heat makes him an excellent weapon, but without the ability to locate it, he'll never make his mark with any big league club.

AAA again had slim pickings, but AA is where the top fastballs really congregated. The list starts off with Joel Zumaya, the young flamethrower who made it all the way up to AA even before his 20th birthday. He throws 2 fastballs (both a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer), both of which remain his bread and butter. On top of the movement, it doesn't hurt that both sit in upper 90's when he's well rested.

Zumaya's teammate, Humberto Sanchez can also pull back and throw heat, reaching the mid 90's, much like Zumaya. Sanchez is also a bigger guy like Zumaya, with excellent late sink on his 95-MPH fastball – which makes it a plus pitch for the 21 year old.

A third member from the Erie club, this one a reliever, bounced from Erie to Detroit a couple times, but has the heat to stick as a strong end of the game reliever. Roberto Novoa saw a bit of a decline in his velocity as the season wore on (from 97, 98 down to 93), however, the organization is hopeful his velocity will return in spring training of 2005.

The club at Lakeland was without a highly-regarded flamethrower after the promotions of Zumaya and Sanchez. But, they'll still have a few guys on the way.

One of them is Eulogio Delacruz. Unlike the typical flamethrower, Delacruz is not a big guy – either height or weight wise. That still hasn't stopped Delacruz from pulling back and firing his 97-MPH fastball, this past season at Midwest League batters. Delacruz also has a very smooth and easy delivery, the only thing slowing him being the lack of a reliable off-speed pitch.

Another that will likely find his way to Lakeland in 2005 is recent first round pick Justin Verlander. Verlander is still a bit wild, but consistently hit 98 MPH on the radar gun in his 2004 college campaign for Old Dominion. The organization hopes, that with time and improvement, Verlander will learn to control his heat, and turn it into a dominating pitch, eventually even at the big league level.

Another recent draftee possesses the top speed of any fastball in the organization. 4th Round Pick Collin Mahoney was converted from Catcher to Relief Pitcher at the end of his college career, after goofing around on the mound displayed Mahoney possessing a high 90's fastball. After a bit of refinement, Mahoney was able to hit triple digits – unfortunately Mahoney has yet to figure out how to control the pitch in any way. If he can do that, he could be an incredible weapon, as pitchers that can reach triple digits are few and far between.

One final pitcher worth mentioning is another that has an incredibly high ceiling; unfortunately he also has yet to become a pitcher as opposed to just a thrower. Jay Sborz is another big body with plenty of potential, but lacks control and consistency, and just finished a 2nd inconsistent season in rookie ball.

There's plenty of potential when it comes to fastballs in this organization – some are already plus pitches, while others have the velocity, and are just waiting to be controlled. But no matter how you look at it, there's plenty more heat being thrown in the organization than there has been in recent years.

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