Charlyn Garcia: Hardly a big-ticket signing and posting just a 5.73 ERA in his first six professional games last season with DSL Yankees1, the 21-year old actually has some really impressive stuff. He throws a wicked curveball that has the potential to move up in the rankings here once he makes his way to the United States.
Jesse Hoover: A mainstay in the Top Curveballs piece since being drafted by the Yankees back in 2004, Hoover's curveball is a shade of its former self after he made the return from a two-year disabled list stint with back problems. Once throwing a nasty 77-82 MPH power curveball, he hasn't been able to get the same movement since his return. We're going to give him a little more time to improve his command and movement with it before we shelve his curve as one of the better ones.
|COMING SOON: Kontos has developed a curveball that is on the cusp of being one of the best. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Juan Marcano: The skinny Venezuelan native had some terrific numbers in his professional debut season last year with DSL Yankees2, posting a 1.37 ERA and striking out better than a batter per inning pitched, thanks in large part to his plus curveball. The left-hander doesn't throw hard at all, averaging just 84-86 MPH with his fastball, but his advanced curveball should at least give him the opportunity to move a bit quicker.
Jeff Marquez: Like Kontos, Marquez has a wicked curveball that would easily rank among the ten best in most farm systems but gets buried in a Yankees farm system blessed with some incredible curveballs. He changed his curveball to a knuckle-curveball last season, a grip introduced to him by Garcia, and the result was much better command of what was already a good swing-and-miss pitch for him.
Lance Pendleton: The former Rice University hurler gets overlooked by many because he has only pitched roughly 40 innings since signing with teh Yankees back in 2005. While he might not be confused with one of the better power arms in the farm system, his curveball is very, very good. Still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, however, he hasn't worked his way back to consistently commanding his best strikeout weapon just yet.
|CONSISTENCY THE KEY: Throwing his curveball more for called strikes would be huge for Pope. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
David Robertson: Like Pope, Robertson showcased a great diving curveball in his first season with the Yankees last season, one in which he would generate a lot of swings-and-misses with it out of the zone. Unlike Pope, however, it was Robertson's first year throwing a curveball after the Yankees had him scrap his slider in favor of developing his curve. Once he learns to command it better and drop it more in the zone for called strikes, he'll have the opportunity to crack the Top Ten.
Jason Stephens: Working his way back from Tommy John surgery last season, Stephens went 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees, thanks in large part to his ephus-like curveball. He throws a big breaking, slow loopy curveball in the 70-73 MPH range. While it is fun to watch it drop in the zone for called strikes, it does need to tighten up a bit more and be thrown a tad harder for it to be more effective at the higher minor league levels.
Arodys Vizcaino: The 17-year old was the top pitcher signed by the Yankees during the international signing period last year and he already showcases an average big league curveball. Not surprising for a kid who has yet to pitch in an official minor league game, the consistent command of his curveball isn't there yet but it has the look of being one of the better curves in the farm system for years to come once he is able to be more consistent with it.
Top Ten Curveballs
10) Ivan Nova: Nova has a plus curveball from a movement standpoint, and has shown flashes of being able to command it consistently, but he also been unable to consistently throw it from the same arm slot at times and that doesn't allow him to command it consistently in the lower-half of the zone, not to mention tipping his pitch on occasion. It's too good a pitch to not rank in the Top Ten, but frankly, as good as it can be, it should rank much higher and that will only come with more consistency.
9) Angel Reyes: Like Nova, the action Reyes gets with his nasty curveball is a sight to behold when it's on. The problem Reyes has run into over the last year or so, however, is his pitches run extremely hot and cold command-wise. But if there is a silver lining with his inconsistencies it's the fact that his curveball does tend to be on more frequently than his other pitches. Improving his consistency with his curve could take his game to the next level.
|FINDING THE CURVE: McCutchen found his plus curveball once he got promoted to Double-A. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) Humberto Sanchez: The big-bodied power pitcher has one of the better power curveballs in the farm system. Throwing it anywhere from 77-81 MPH, it is his primary strikeout weapon and it is the pitch he arguably commands the best, and that gives him the confidence to throw it in any count and in any situation. Once he proves he hasn't lost it while recovering from Tommy John surgery, it will rank much higher on this list, it is that good.
6) Steven White: Not known for being a big strikeout pitcher, one who relies more on pitching to contact as a starting pitcher with his pitches, the fact that he boasts one of the better curveballs is one of the reasons he is being considered a possibility in the big league bullpen as soon as 2008. Sitting 76-82 MPH with his power curveball, it is mainly his only strikeout weapon, thanks in large part to the tremendous movement he generates with it.
|ADVANCED: Heredia's plus curveball is already among the best. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Jairo Heredia: Displaying uncanny poise, command, and control as a 17-year old in his professional debut season are just a few reasons why so many scouts are so high on Heredia's future potential. The other reason, and perhaps the most important, has been the rapid development of a great curveball at such a young age. Throwing it 75-77 MPH with impeccable location in the lower-half of the strike zone, it is his bread-and-butter strikeout pitch and it is extremely advanced. His plus curveball is also one of the reasons comparisons are constantly being made to Pedro Martinez.
3) Mark Melancon: Seldom do relievers boast the kind of curveball that Melancon possesses. Not only does he throw it straight over the top and bend opposing batters' knees with it in Frankie Rodriguez-like fashion, he has the confidence to throw it any count and locate it at will. His plus curveball is one of the reasons many team officials believe he could move through the farm system in a hurry and secure a place in the back-end of the Yankees bullpen for years to come.
2) Dellin Betances: Even though he has had a tough time consistently throwing his curveball from the same arm slot as his fastball in the early stages of his career, even tipping his pitch in theory, the wicked 12-to-6 movement he gets with his true power knuckle-curveball still makes it one of the best breaking ball offerings in the farm system. Once he learns to throw it consistently from the same slot, he could be primed to move up the minor league ladder quite quickly.
1) Christian Garcia: Armed with a sick power knuckle-curveball that averages 81-84 MPH, Garcia's incredible breaking ball could easily be among the best in the game should he ever make his way to the big leagues. His curveball is easily on par with the great slider Joba Chamberlain possesses. Ranking atop the best curveballs the Yankees farm system has to offer for four years running now, however, the time has come to prove it on the field and hopefully he has learned having great stuff alone doesn't guarantee big league success.