Tool Time: Top Ten Sliders

The graduation of Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy put a dent in the farm system's depth of sliders but the Yankees still have quite a few special ones to watch closely. Here are the top ten sliders among pitching prospects in the Yankees' farm system.

Honorable Mention

Francisco Castillo: When healthy, the 21-year old has one of the better sliders in the entire organization. The problem is, however, he hasn't been 100 percent in over two years. It was finally revealed last season that a bone chip near the nerve in his pitching arm zapped him of his power and he's on the road to recovery. If he can rediscover the power in his game his slider will immediately be Top Ten material.

Steven Jackson: Jackson reinvented himself on the mound in his first year with the Yankees last year, going from primarily a sinker-ball pitcher to more of a power four-seamer. Entering the organization with an average breaking pitch, he has worked diligently improving his slider since donning Pinstripes and he now has it on the cusp of being one of the better slider offerings.

Jason Jones: Jones gets overlooked by many because he doesn't throw particularly hard with his fastball but he does have a very good slider at his disposal. It had been his primary strikeout weapon until he developed his splitter but it is still a very good pitch for him, a pitch that he has no problem locating consistently.

Top Ten Sliders

10) Kevin Whelan: Like Jackson, Whelan didn't set the world ablaze in his first year with the Yankees last season because he was working on refining so many areas in his game, including perfecting his slider. By the end of the season and then into the Arizona Fall League, his slider, a pitch that wasn't a big part of his arsenal prior to 2007, had become quite a good strikeout pitch for him.

9) Anthony Claggett: Another first year pitcher with the Yankees last season, Claggett had a solid debut in Pinstripes, thanks in large part to his plus slider. He's not afraid to go to it against righties or lefties and it is his main strikeout pitch. His slider is the reason why he's knocking on the door of the Top 50, and a reason why he can't be overlooked as a legitimate prospect.

DON'T FORGET: Kroenke gets overlooked but his special slider makes him a good prospect. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Zach Kroenke: Like Claggett, Kroenke's lack of power with his fastball doesn't allow him to crack the Top 50 right now but he has quickly become a legit left-handed reliever with the Yankees due to his great slider. He could stand to command it better inside the strike zone for called strikes but he does get a lot of swings-and-misses with it because of the great biting action he gets.

7) Humberto Sanchez - Slider-wise, Sanchez can resemble Joba Chamberlain at times with the velocity he generates. Able to sit 87-88 MPH with his slider, which acts more like a cutter, he gets a quick but sharp break with his slider. While he will go to his fastball-curveball combination for the majority of his strikeouts, his slider is a great swing-and-miss pitch.

6) Josh Schmidt - For the pundits who live by the radar gun, Schmidt is quickly dismissed with his less than powerful sinking fastball. Sitting just 85-87 MPH with two-seamer, what gives Schmidt a good chance of reaching the big leagues someday is his devastating slider to right-handed batters. He doesn't throw it particularly hard but it gets excellent frisbee-like movement from his sub-sidearm delivery. It's definitely fun to watch

JOBA-LIKE: Like Joba Chamberlain, Horne can hit 90 MPH with his slider. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Alan Horne - Like Sanchez, Horne's devastating slider is much more like a cut-fastball and he too can reach Joba-like velocity levels with his slider - topping out at 90 MPH. He is a bit inconsistent with it when he needs to make adjustments to it, but he has it on the cusp of being equally as good as his curveball and that makes it quite special.

4) J. Brent Cox - Cox is hardly a power reliever, relying mostly on pitching to contact with a heavy sinker. But the reason why he was one of the best closers in college, and why he projects to be an excellent setup man at the big league level down the road, is because of his great slider. It is his best strikeout weapon, sitting 80-85 MPH and generating great movement with it. He also has the ability to spot it wherever he wants and that makes it a huge plus pitch.

3) Grant Duff: The 6-foot-5 hurler actually lost his slider for a considerable portion of the season last year as he struggled with his mechanics pitching out of the stretch. He did rediscover it in the second-half of the season though, and when it's on, it is definitely one of the best sliders around. Like Kroenke, Duff wasn't able to crack our Top 50 but his plus slider, a pitch he will throw in any count and in any situation, does make him a very good big league bullpen prospect. Don't overlook him.

2) Mike Dunn - The converted outfielder quickly became one of the best pitchers in the South Atlantic League last year - his first full season on the mound - mostly because of his bulldog attitude and devastating slider. He has the confidence to throw it in any situation against both lefties and righties, and he can pile up the strikeouts in a hurry with it. His slider is so special that many insiders believe he could fly through the farm system if he is converted to the bullpen.

1) George Kontos: The graduation of Joba Chamberlain to the big leagues immediately puts Kontos and his wicked slider atop these rankings. Sitting comfortably in the 83-86 MPH range with it, his combination of a hard-biting movement and impeccable command makes his slider just a fraction below that of Chamberlain's. It's so good, however, that many scouts believe he would be better suited pitching in the back-end of a big league bullpen someday as a future big league setup man or closer - it's that good.


Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nHonorable Mention
\r\n
\r\nFrancisco Castillo: When healthy, the 21-year old has one of the better sliders in the entire organization. The problem is, however, he hasn't been 100 percent in over two years. It was finally revealed last season that a bone chip near the nerve in his pitching arm zapped him of his power and he's on the road to recovery. If he can rediscover the power in his game his slider will immediately be Top Ten material.
\r\n
\r\nSteven Jackson: Jackson reinvented himself on the mound in his first year with the Yankees last year, going from primarily a sinker-ball pitcher to more of a power four-seamer. Entering the organization with an average breaking pitch, he has worked diligently improving his slider since donning Pinstripes and he now has it on the cusp of being one of the better slider offerings.
\r\n
\r\nJason Jones: Jones gets overlooked by many because he doesn't throw particularly hard with his fastball but he does have a very good slider at his disposal. It had been his primary strikeout weapon until he developed his splitter but it is still a very good pitch for him, a pitch that he has no problem locating consistently.
\r\n
\r\nTop Ten Sliders
\r\n
\r\n10) Kevin Whelan: Like Jackson, Whelan didn't set the world ablaze in his first year with the Yankees last season because he was working on refining so many areas in his game, including perfecting his slider. By the end of the season and then into the Arizona Fall League, his slider, a pitch that wasn't a big part of his arsenal prior to 2007, had become quite a good strikeout pitch for him.
\r\n
\r\n9) Anthony Claggett: Another first year pitcher with the Yankees last season, Claggett had a solid debut in Pinstripes, thanks in large part to his plus slider. He's not afraid to go to it against righties or lefties and it is his main strikeout pitch. His slider is the reason why he's knocking on the door of the Top 50, and a reason why he can't be overlooked as a legitimate prospect.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
DON'T FORGET: Kroenke gets overlooked but his special slider makes him a good prospect. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Zach Kroenke: Like Claggett, Kroenke's lack of power with his fastball doesn't allow him to crack the Top 50 right now but he has quickly become a legit left-handed reliever with the Yankees due to his great slider. He could stand to command it better inside the strike zone for called strikes but he does get a lot of swings-and-misses with it because of the great biting action he gets.
\r\n
\r\n7) Humberto Sanchez - Slider-wise, Sanchez can resemble Joba Chamberlain at times with the velocity he generates. Able to sit 87-88 MPH with his slider, which acts more like a cutter, he gets a quick but sharp break with his slider. While he will go to his fastball-curveball combination for the majority of his strikeouts, his slider is a great swing-and-miss pitch.
\r\n
\r\n6) Josh Schmidt - For the pundits who live by the radar gun, Schmidt is quickly dismissed with his less than powerful sinking fastball. Sitting just 85-87 MPH with two-seamer, what gives Schmidt a good chance of reaching the big leagues someday is his devastating slider to right-handed batters. He doesn't throw it particularly hard but it gets excellent frisbee-like movement from his sub-sidearm delivery. It's definitely fun to watch
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
JOBA-LIKE: Like Joba Chamberlain, Horne can hit 90 MPH with his slider. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Alan Horne - Like Sanchez, Horne's devastating slider is much more like a cut-fastball and he too can reach Joba-like velocity levels with his slider - topping out at 90 MPH. He is a bit inconsistent with it when he needs to make adjustments to it, but he has it on the cusp of being equally as good as his curveball and that makes it quite special.
\r\n
\r\n4) J. Brent Cox - Cox is hardly a power reliever, relying mostly on pitching to contact with a heavy sinker. But the reason why he was one of the best closers in college, and why he projects to be an excellent setup man at the big league level down the road, is because of his great slider. It is his best strikeout weapon, sitting 80-85 MPH and generating great movement with it. He also has the ability to spot it wherever he wants and that makes it a huge plus pitch.
\r\n
\r\n3) Grant Duff: The 6-foot-5 hurler actually lost his slider for a considerable portion of the season last year as he struggled with his mechanics pitching out of the stretch. He did rediscover it in the second-half of the season though, and when it's on, it is definitely one of the best sliders around. Like Kroenke, Duff wasn't able to crack our Top 50 but his plus slider, a pitch he will throw in any count and in any situation, does make him a very good big league bullpen prospect. Don't overlook him.
\r\n
\r\n2) Mike Dunn - The converted outfielder quickly became one of the best pitchers in the South Atlantic League last year - his first full season on the mound - mostly because of his bulldog attitude and devastating slider. He has the confidence to throw it in any situation against both lefties and righties, and he can pile up the strikeouts in a hurry with it. His slider is so special that many insiders believe he could fly through the farm system if he is converted to the bullpen.
\r\n
\r\n1) George Kontos: The graduation of Joba Chamberlain to the big leagues immediately puts Kontos and his wicked slider atop these rankings. Sitting comfortably in the 83-86 MPH range with it, his combination of a hard-biting movement and impeccable command makes his slider just a fraction below that of Chamberlain's. It's so good, however, that many scouts believe he would be better suited pitching in the back-end of a big league bullpen someday as a future big league setup man or closer - it's that good.
\r\n
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