Tool Time: Top Ten Fastballs For Relievers

The Yankees are widely known for their collection of top-flight power pitchers. While the majority of them are starting pitchers right now, and even though a few could make the switch to the bullpen at some point, we take a look at the top ten fastballs among the current relief pitching prospects in the Yankees farm system.

Honorable Mention

Harold Garce: Power-wise, it doesn't get any better than Garce. The 23-year old can hit 98-99 MPH pretty routinely and he was even sitting 96 MPH during his first Spring Training last year while throwing the baseball with a palm-sized blister. There's no denying the raw power, but the lack of control is hard to overlook. He walked 84 batters in just 37 2/3 innings with DSL Yankees1 in his debut season last year, and that's not a misprint. Garce's lack of command makes him a longshot to ever make it to the big leagues, but it's hard to ignore his velocity and that should give him a few opportunities.

Kelvin Perez: Even though this 23-year old hasn't made it out of the rookie levels in four seasons yet, he has a big league arm. He was sitting 91-94 MPH with his fastball in the Gulf Coast League last season, his first year back coming off of Tommy John surgery. Normally the Yankees don't bring lower-level pitchers up as relievers, but his advanced age and special arm could make him the exception to the rule. His slender frame, loose arm action, and not even 18 months after his surgery suggests he could throw even harder in due time.

Top Ten Fastballs For Relief Pitchers

10) Eric Wordekemper: The 2007 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year had a sub-par season by his standards in 2008, posting a 3.93 ERA in Double-A. He also walked a career-high 26 batters, but it wasn't because of his fastball. He has great command of a big league fastball that averages 90-93 MPH and he can spot it at will. He won't light up the radar gun with his heater, but his plus command of it makes it a very effective pitch.

9) Wilkins Arias: The soon-to-be 29-year old hardly qualifies as a prospect under normal circumstances, but lefties who can sit 91-93 MPH and top out at 95 MPH aren't exactly prevalent either. He signed later than most pitchers normally do and despite his advanced age there is still a lot of proverbial miles left in his arm. Arias shouldn't be an afterthought because of his age and his plus fastball is a big reason why.

Norton still has a ton of value, especially as a potential reliever. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) J. Brent Cox: Like Wordekemper, Cox will never be confused with a power pitcher. He is mostly in the 88-92 MPH range with his sinking two-seamer and he doesn't attempt to get it by batters - he's on the mound to try to induce ground balls. His lack of plus velocity and subsequent lack of strikeouts keeps him under the radar, but he is very reliable and it's because of his fastball.

7) Tim Norton: Norton hasn't pitched in nearly two years and he hasn't ever made a relief appearance at the professional level. However, considering he will turn 26 years old in May, the smart money says his long-term role in the organization will most likely come as a member of the bullpen. He sat 92-94 MPH with his fastball as a starter. Coming off of shoulder surgery though, it remains to be seen if he'll will maintain his pre-injury velocity. A transition to the bullpen would make that more likely and possibly even help add a tick or two.

6) Anthony Claggett: The former Detroit Tigers farmhand acquired in the Gary Sheffield trade has quietly become what the Yankees had hoped they were getting when they drafted J. Brent Cox back in '05. In fact, he has become a harder-throwing version of Cox, sitting 90-93 MPH with his sinker. His lack of plus command of his fastball is the only reason he doesn't rank higher here, but he is certainly one to watch and his fastball is the reason why.

INJURIES BEHIND HIM?: Patterson needs to avoid the injury bug to fulfill his potential as an impact lefty reliever. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Steven Jackson: Like Claggett, Jackson peaked at the right time last season to grab one of the 40-man roster spots this offseason. And also like Claggett, Jackson's plus sinker is extremely effective. He throws his a tick harder, however, averaging 91-94 MPH and he can induce the double-play with it or use it as a strikeout weapon as well.

4) Garrett Patterson: The left-hander has one of the better fastballs around, especially for a southpaw. He comfortably sits 92-94 MPH and that's where his command is at its best with his fastball, but he also has the ability to crank it up to 97 MPH when the need arises [although the command falters at that level]. When he's hitting his spots in the lower-half of the zone, it's nearly unhittable. He just needs to do that more consistently, and once he does, he'll move fast.

3) Kevin Whelan: The former Tigers farmhand hasn't been the same pitcher the Yankees traded for in the Gary Sheffield deal. Reportedly able to sit 93-95 MPH and top out at 97 MPH with Detroit, Whelan has been ironing out his mechanics and as a result his fastball has dipped down to the 91-94 MPH range in Pinstripes. The pure power is in there though and he and the Yankees are hoping it returns this coming season. If it does, he won't be in the minors for long.

2) Mike Dunn: The former outfielder turned starting pitcher who recently was moved to the bullpen saw his once 90-93 MPH fastball soar to the 94-95 MPH plateau consistently upon his transition to the bullpen. His ability to focus on his fastball-slider combination has him on the 40-man roster, but it's his plus fastball that has him closer to the big leagues than some pundits realize.

1) Mark Melancon: Whether it's his plus curveball, plus changeup, or having makeup off the charts, there's a lot to like with Melancon. However, what brings his game together is his plus sinker that sits 90-94 MPH. Velocity-wise there are pitchers who throw sinkers harder, but it's the movement he gets with it [it dives down and in to right-handed batters in a lefty, power-slider fashion] that makes it not only a ground ball inducer but an ideal strikeout weapon. Oh yeah, he also has a four-seamer that can top out at 96 MPH too.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nHonorable Mention
\r\n
\r\nHarold Garce: Power-wise, it doesn't get any better than Garce. The 23-year old can hit 98-99 MPH pretty routinely and he was even sitting 96 MPH during his first Spring Training last year while throwing the baseball with a palm-sized blister. There's no denying the raw power, but the lack of control is hard to overlook. He walked 84 batters in just 37 2/3 innings with DSL Yankees1 in his debut season last year, and that's not a misprint. Garce's lack of command makes him a longshot to ever make it to the big leagues, but it's hard to ignore his velocity and that should give him a few opportunities.
\r\n
\r\nKelvin Perez: Even though this 23-year old hasn't made it out of the rookie levels in four seasons yet, he has a big league arm. He was sitting 91-94 MPH with his fastball in the Gulf Coast League last season, his first year back coming off of Tommy John surgery. Normally the Yankees don't bring lower-level pitchers up as relievers, but his advanced age and special arm could make him the exception to the rule. His slender frame, loose arm action, and not even 18 months after his surgery suggests he could throw even harder in due time.
\r\n
\r\nTop Ten Fastballs For Relief Pitchers
\r\n
\r\n10) Eric Wordekemper: The 2007 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year had a sub-par season by his standards in 2008, posting a 3.93 ERA in Double-A. He also walked a career-high 26 batters, but it wasn't because of his fastball. He has great command of a big league fastball that averages 90-93 MPH and he can spot it at will. He won't light up the radar gun with his heater, but his plus command of it makes it a very effective pitch.
\r\n
\r\n9) Wilkins Arias: The soon-to-be 29-year old hardly qualifies as a prospect under normal circumstances, but lefties who can sit 91-93 MPH and top out at 95 MPH aren't exactly prevalent either. He signed later than most pitchers normally do and despite his advanced age there is still a lot of proverbial miles left in his arm. Arias shouldn't be an afterthought because of his age and his plus fastball is a big reason why.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
Norton still has a ton of value, especially as a potential reliever. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) J. Brent Cox: Like Wordekemper, Cox will never be confused with a power pitcher. He is mostly in the 88-92 MPH range with his sinking two-seamer and he doesn't attempt to get it by batters - he's on the mound to try to induce ground balls. His lack of plus velocity and subsequent lack of strikeouts keeps him under the radar, but he is very reliable and it's because of his fastball.
\r\n
\r\n7) Tim Norton: Norton hasn't pitched in nearly two years and he hasn't ever made a relief appearance at the professional level. However, considering he will turn 26 years old in May, the smart money says his long-term role in the organization will most likely come as a member of the bullpen. He sat 92-94 MPH with his fastball as a starter. Coming off of shoulder surgery though, it remains to be seen if he'll will maintain his pre-injury velocity. A transition to the bullpen would make that more likely and possibly even help add a tick or two.
\r\n
\r\n6) Anthony Claggett: The former Detroit Tigers farmhand acquired in the Gary Sheffield trade has quietly become what the Yankees had hoped they were getting when they drafted J. Brent Cox back in '05. In fact, he has become a harder-throwing version of Cox, sitting 90-93 MPH with his sinker. His lack of plus command of his fastball is the only reason he doesn't rank higher here, but he is certainly one to watch and his fastball is the reason why.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
INJURIES BEHIND HIM?: Patterson needs to avoid the injury bug to fulfill his potential as an impact lefty reliever. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Steven Jackson: Like Claggett, Jackson peaked at the right time last season to grab one of the 40-man roster spots this offseason. And also like Claggett, Jackson's plus sinker is extremely effective. He throws his a tick harder, however, averaging 91-94 MPH and he can induce the double-play with it or use it as a strikeout weapon as well.
\r\n
\r\n4) Garrett Patterson: The left-hander has one of the better fastballs around, especially for a southpaw. He comfortably sits 92-94 MPH and that's where his command is at its best with his fastball, but he also has the ability to crank it up to 97 MPH when the need arises [although the command falters at that level]. When he's hitting his spots in the lower-half of the zone, it's nearly unhittable. He just needs to do that more consistently, and once he does, he'll move fast.
\r\n
\r\n3) Kevin Whelan: The former Tigers farmhand hasn't been the same pitcher the Yankees traded for in the Gary Sheffield deal. Reportedly able to sit 93-95 MPH and top out at 97 MPH with Detroit, Whelan has been ironing out his mechanics and as a result his fastball has dipped down to the 91-94 MPH range in Pinstripes. The pure power is in there though and he and the Yankees are hoping it returns this coming season. If it does, he won't be in the minors for long.
\r\n
\r\n2) Mike Dunn: The former outfielder turned starting pitcher who recently was moved to the bullpen saw his once 90-93 MPH fastball soar to the 94-95 MPH plateau consistently upon his transition to the bullpen. His ability to focus on his fastball-slider combination has him on the 40-man roster, but it's his plus fastball that has him closer to the big leagues than some pundits realize.
\r\n
\r\n1) Mark Melancon: Whether it's his plus curveball, plus changeup, or having makeup off the charts, there's a lot to like with Melancon. However, what brings his game together is his plus sinker that sits 90-94 MPH. Velocity-wise there are pitchers who throw sinkers harder, but it's the movement he gets with it [it dives down and in to right-handed batters in a lefty, power-slider fashion] that makes it not only a ground ball inducer but an ideal strikeout weapon. Oh yeah, he also has a four-seamer that can top out at 96 MPH too.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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