Jesse Hoover: Out for the past two seasons with a back injury, people forget that the fireballer also has one of the best curveballs in the organization. It's a hard-biting curve in the 77-82 MPH range that serves as his primary strikeout pitch. With the incredible depth of quality curveballs in the farm system now, he'll have to prove he's healthy to get back up in the rankings.
Jason Stephens: Armed with a big, slow loopy curveball that sits mostly in the 70-73 MPH range, Stephens' curveball is a lot of fun to watch as it conjures up images of 'Oil Can' Boyd's 'ephus' pitch. Prior to his Tommy John surgery however, he and the Yankees were working on throwing it faster, trying to get it up to the 77-78 MPH plateau to make it more effective. He was starting to do that more in Charleston last season. If he can consistently throw it harder, it has plus potential all the way.
Lance Pendleton: Another plus curveball, another pitcher on the shelf. Like Stephens and Hoover, Pendleton has a hammer curveball but because of his Tommy John surgery so soon into his professional career, he hasn't had the opportunity to develop it into a truly reliable weapon for him after only making the full-time transition to the mound after college. Scheduled to return in the early part of the 2007 season, he could begin showcasing the makings of a very, very good curveball once again.
Darrell Rasner: Rasner gets lost in the shuffle because he doesn't throw particularly hard, but what he lacks in fastball velocity he makes up with great command of a very good curveball. In one of his starts last year, he threw his breaking ball for strikes over 75 percent of the time and he's consistently in the 72-75 MPH range. His curveball is arguably his best swing-and-miss pitch.
Jeff Marquez: The addition of arms this offseason and the development of the young Latin arms have pushed Marquez and his curveball out of the Top Ten, but that shouldn't discredit just how good his curveball is. He made huge improvements with it last season and piled up nine strikeouts in his final outing of the 2006 season with his curveball. Sitting 76-78 MPH with his power curveball, he gets plus movement with it but he is now just starting to develop plus command of it.
Matthew DeSalvo: Like Marquez, DeSalvo's curveball was clearly one of the best in the farm system in 2005 but has fallen victim to the increasing depth of breaking balls in the organization over the last year. It is a quality big league curveball in the 77-79 MPH range and he gets sharp break with it. And also like Marquez, DeSalvo's curveball has plus movement and he just lacks the consistent location of it for it to be a dominate pitch for him all the time.
|George Kontos has come a long way in a short period of time with a curveball that has plus potential. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Alan Horne: Horne gets incredible movement with his sharp curveball. It served primarily as a swing-and-miss pitch for him in his college days but he was unable to locate it for called strikes consistently until the latter-half of his time in the Florida State League last season. He made it less loopy and threw it harder in 2006, and if he can prove he can throw it for called strikes once again in 2007 and beyond, it has the potential to rank right up there with the top curveballs in the system.
Joba Chamberlain: Chamberlain's curveball was his best pitch in his younger days before he began favoring his slider in college. He gets wicked movement with it and the Yankees believe it will be a plus pitch for him once he starts throwing it more in game situations. Considering he hasn't pitched in an official minor league game yet, we could start seeing his impressive curveball more this coming season.
Humberto Sanchez: Sanchez throws a big-time curveball with incredible movement, drawing comparisons to some of the best curveballs the system has to offer. It is a true swing-and-miss pitch for him but inconsistent mechanics have led to inconsistent command of his breaking ball in his career thus far. However, Nardi Contreras and the Yankees believe it will become a more consistent weapon for him real soon.
Top Ten Curveballs
10) Ivan Nova: Nova has caught the attention of his pitching coaches not only because he throws a fastball in the mid-90's with great control, but because has already developed a plus curveball he can spot at will. His career has been so brief and the possession of his plus curveball has been so new that he can't be ranked higher on this listing right now. He needs to prove the plus curveball he had in the Gulf Coast League last season will remain a consistent weapon for him to compete with the elite curveballs in the system. The good news is everybody thinks he can.
9) Daniel McCutchen: The fact that McCutchen and his spike-curveball, a pitch he can locate at will, doesn't rank higher in the Top Ten Curveballs is a credit to the depth of the Yankees farm system. He will throw it in any count and in any situation. He'll bury it in the dirt for the swinging strike or pop it over the plate for a called strike. The plus command of his plus curveball is the reason why most people think he could move pretty quickly up the minor league ladder.
|Angel Reyes just needs to improve his consistent location of his plus curveball to rank higher. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) Steven White: White throws a nasty slurvy curveball in the 76-82 MPH that not only drops down and in but also gets some tailing action. Like Reyes, White's curveball command can be a bit sketchy at times, but when it's on, it's nearly unhittable. Primarily a fastball pitcher, the Yankees would like to see White throw his plus curveball more in game situations as they believe it could allow him to become a more prominent strikeout pitcher.
6) Ian Kennedy: Just as is the case with his plus slider and plus changeup, Kennedy has impeccable command of a plus curveball. He gets a ton of movement with his breaking ball and he can pile up the strikeouts with his big league curve. The fact that he can pop one over the plate in fastball counts is the reason why the Yankees made him their first round selection last season and the reason why many expect Kennedy to make his way through the minor leagues very quickly.
|Tyler Clippard actually throws two different curveballs, both with great command. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Tyler Clippard: Like Kenndedy, Clippard is more of a backwards pitcher who uses a plus curveball as his main strikeout pitch. In fact, T-Clip throws two different curveballs: a slower one he throws earlier in the count for a called strike or to back-door a left-handed batter, and a harder one later in the count when he's seeking the strikeout against a right-handed batter. Averaging anywhere from 72-78 MPH with his curve, he can throw it anywhere he wants it.
3) Dellin Betances: Betances throws a power curveball that has been compared to the elite breaking balls in the organization. He has the confidence to throw it in any count and in any situation and the command of his curveball greatly improved after the Yankees made some changes to his mechanics. He doesn't have the consistent command of it like a Tyler Clippard or Ian Kennedy does right now, but he throws it harder and the Yankees believe he'll start showing that consistency a lot more, starting this upcoming season.
2) Phil Hughes: Hughes has gone from a non-existent curveball to one of the best in all of minor league baseball in his short career, a credit to both the Yankees' pitching coaches and Hughes' tireless work ethic. It's a true power curveball that sits in the 78-80 MPH range and he now commands it as well as his fastball. If there is one negative to his curveball is that he favored it as his only offspeed offering in some starts last season, but with it being such an effective weapon, who could blame him.
1) Christian Garcia: Another victim who fell to Tommy John surgery this offseason, Garcia's curveball still ranks as the best in a farm system filled with top-notch curveballs. It is a power knuckle curveball that sits mostly 81-84 MPH and he can locate it at will. He'll not only have the confidence to throw it 3-2 with the bases loaded, but he'll spot it for a called strike. While Hughes has matched Garcia's command of a top-flight breaking ball, Garcia generates more power with it at this point.