Manuel Banuelos: The 16-year old left-hander was recently signed out of Mexico. While the early book on him is being armed with a plus curveball, Banuelos - who is already working out at the Yankees Dominican Republic complex to get ready for Spring Training - reportedly has a "sick" changeup that has quickly impressed the coaching staff. It may be premature to put him in this category, but the Yankees' loss of many quality changeups puts him immediately in the discussion.
Charlyn Garcia: While the Yankees are extremely excited about this 21-year old's combination of a power fastball and a very good curveball, it's his wicked changeup that has most insiders believing he has the look of a big-time sleeper prospect. He still has to prove it in the United States but he is definitely the Dominican Summer League import with one of the better changeups.
|UNDER THE RADAR: Coke might not be a top prospect but his changeup is one of the better ones. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Alan Horne: Armed with one of the deepest repertoires in the farm system, while his changeup is not on par with his other pitches, it has come a long way. It's not a swing-and-miss pitch by any means, and while he could stand to throw it bit more slowly on a consistent basis, it has become a very good contact pitch for him over the past two seasons and that allows him to pitch deeper into games. It could become one of the better changeups if he could get it more consistent.
George Kontos: Like Horne, Kontos' changeup pales in comparison to his fastball and breaking pitch combination but it has become a much more reliable weapon for him as of late. He is actually getting quite a few swing-and-misses with it, especially after focusing on it in the Hawaiian Winter League, but it is not yet to the point where it is a strikeout pitch. He does, however, have it on the cusp of being one of the better changeups on the farm.
Mark Melancon: A power reliever who is blessed with one of the best curveballs in the farm system, one who projects to be a one-inning setup man down the road, it's not as if he needs his changeup to be a strikeout weapon for him. But one of the developments working his way back from Tommy John surgery has been the refinement of his swing-and-miss changeup and he believes it may be up to snuff with his curveball sometime soon. It bears watching.
|COMING BACK: Santos will have one of the best changeups when he comes back healthy. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Andres Santos: The numbers - 4-1, 1.43 ERA, 62 strikeouts in 52 innings, and holding opposing batters to a .178 average - have been absolutely sick so far in his young career and it's primarily due to his plus changeup. Unable to stay healthy since signing with the Yankees, however, they finally diagnosed the problem and he had shoulder surgery last year. Expected to return in 2008, if he can prove he's healthy, he'll shoot up these rankings and the overall Top 50 in a hurry, his changeup is that special.
Brett Smith: One of the Eastern League ERA leaders when he was demoted to Tampa last season, his season quickly quickly spiraled out of control, going 0-6 with a 7.41 ERA in just eight games in the Florida State League and seeing his command abandon him. While the numbers weren't pretty, it wasn't because of his changeup. Struggling to command his fastball made his plus changeup less effective. He has proven that if he is commanding his fastball consistently that his changeup is special enough to get batters out at the higher levels.
Edgar Soto: Like Coke, Soto has a hard time cracking the Top 50 because of his average fastball he but has been able to put up some pretty good numbers [3.62 career ERA with 279 strikeouts in 291 innings] due to his advanced changeup. Preparing to enter his seventh season with the Yankees, the fact that he hasn't pitched more than handful of games above low-A ball keeps him out of the Top Ten here.
Jason Stephens: Along the lines of Coke and Soto, the absence of an above average fastball keeps Stephens out of Top 50 discussions in such a deep crop of pitching prospects. Averaging 88-90 MPH with his fastball when healthy, his advanced changeup has allowed him to post a very impressive 2.68 career ERA. Just like with his curveball, he can spot it at will and he should not be forgotten.
Steven White: Like Kontos and Horne, White's changeup is not a strikeout weapon for him at all. But armed with a change that acts a bit more like a cut-fastball, he has come a long way in getting it much more consistent. It is a pitch that has allowed him to pitch inside to lefties and open up the outer-half of the plate. If he remains in the starting role, giving him a little more time to develop it, it has the chance to be one of the better changeup offerings.
Top Ten Changeups
10) Zach McAllister: The Yankees third round pick in 2006 out of high school has an advanced feel for his changeup, showcasing a plus change at times during his short career thus far. It did, however, regress a bit last season as he had a hard time throwing it consistently from the same arm slot as his fastball and that affected his command of it. When it's going right it is one of the best changeup offerings but he will need to show it more consistently to move up in the rankings.
9) Jairo Heredia: What a difference a year makes. Entering his professional debut season last year favoring his changeup as his best pitch, he set forth the goal of improving his curveball. While those results were unbelievably good, the command of his changeup, a feel pitch, suffered as a result. Leaving it a bit too high in the zone at times, he needs to consistently get it down in the zone more for it to be the true plus offering he once had with it and that should happen as he continues his development.
8) Manny Barreda: Talk about hard working paying immediate dividends. A raw power arm when he was drafted last June, Barreda quickly listened to his coaches, worked extremely hard, and developed a non-existent changeup into a swing-and-miss changeup in a very short period of time. Extremely coachable, Barreda's changeup has become one of his better strikeout pitches already, thanks in large part to throwing it more over the top and that has helped him with his command.
|SLOT MACHINE: Improving the consistency of his arm slot is the final step in Betances improving his changeup. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
6) Ryan Pope: Drafted in the third round last June, Pope has a very polished changeup, especially considering it was a pitch he seldom threw in college. It has overall plus potential but he could stand to better his command of it. He leaves it up a little too high in the zone at times and it would be much more effective if he could consistently get it in the lower-half of the zone. But with the movement he generates with it, with the arm action he gets, and with his normally spot-on command of his other pitches, some scouts believe his changeup could be a big-time weapon cut in the mold of Ian Kennedy.
|SPOTTING UP: Nova just needs to throw his changeup lower in the strike zone. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Ivan Nova: Like Heredia and Pope, Nova has a plus changeup from a movement and arm speed action standpoint - although his is better in both areas - but can't rank higher simply because he hasn't shown an ability to consistently locate it in the lower-half of the strike zone just yet. Able to throw strikes at will, however, perfecting this one aspect of his game shouldn't be that tall a task. He's on the cusp of having the top overall changeup in the farm system.
3) Christian Garcia: Garcia, renown for his incredible curveball as a big-time strikeout pitch, had developed his changeup into as reliable a weapon prior to his Tommy John surgery. Working his way back into game shape for upcoming 2008 season, and unable to throw his curveball for the longest time, his changeup has actually gotten better. As is the case with his other pitches, however, he has to prove it at the higher minor league levels soon for it to continue to be held in such high regard.
2) Jonathan Ortiz: Meet the second coming of Edwar Ramirez. Like Ramirez, Ortiz has an incredible changeup that not only dances over the plate in cartoon-like fashion with the movement he generates with it, but he can command it at will. The numbers in his career - 18-1, 35 saves, 1.42 ERA - have been staggering to say the least. But unlike Ramirez, while he won't average the same velocity with his fastball, he can command it much better and that may serve him well as possibly a more viable long-term big league option someday, especially if he can improve the speed with his fastball.
1) Jeff Marquez: Marquez made a huge step in his development this past season after developing his curveball into a plus pitch. The reason that has been so important is, with his changeup giving opposing batters the appearance that it's a breaking ball with the movement he gets with it, batters now have an even harder time picking it up. It is a true strikeout pitch and he has the confidence to throw it in any count and in any situation, giving him the best changeup on the farm.