Tool Time: Top Ten Curveballs

Even though they lost the likes of Ivan Nova, Daniel McCutchen, and Angel Reyes - all of whom had plus curveballs - the depth of the Yankees farm system continues to get better in this category. Here are the Top Ten Curveballs in the Yankee farm system.

Honorable Mention

D.J. Mitchell: Mitchell's curveball is so new that he has a hard time cracking the Top Ten for now...but it's currently good enough to find a permanent home there in the coming seasons. He used to throw a slurvy breaking ball that was more of a slider in college, but he has quickly changed it into a legitimate plus big league curveball. A little more proving it on the field this coming year is all he needs.

COMING SOON: Richardson's overall game is raw, but his curveball has the chance to be special. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
Lance Pendleton: The 25-year old gets overlooked by many because his older age at the lower minor league levels, but that shouldn't discount his stuff. Even though he has been trying to get back to his 90-94 MPH fastball after Tommy John surgery, he still struck out 119 batters in 128 innings with the Charleston Riverdogs last season on the strength of his plus curveball. It's a weapon that will keep him around for a while.

Matt Richardson: A shortstop in high school, Richardson is a bit raw on the mound at the current time. Working on his mechanics has been and will continue to be the focal point of his development, but his above average curveball that has legitimate plus potential is a reason why he should more than hold his own while he's honing his entire game.

Brad Rulon: The Georgia Tech product was drafted in the 34th round last season and that makes him a bit of a 'sleeper', especially considering he's armed with one of the better curveballs in the organization. Unlike most relievers who dominate in the NY-Penn League, his curveball is a legitimate inside-the-zone, swing-and-miss pitch. It's a true 12-to-6 curveball that dives down into the zone and it's one of the reasons he should not be overlooked.

Jason Stephens: He doesn't throw hard at all [87-91 MPH], but what he lacks in fastball velocity he more than makes up with 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.

Top Ten Curveballs

10) George Kontos: We said in this very same article a year ago that Kontos' curveball was on the cusp of being one of the best in the organization, and he went out and proved it last season. Once a get-me-over curveball, it became a legitimate strikeout weapon and a pitch that helped keep left-handed batters off of his slider in the second-half of the season last year. Kontos' game is starting to peak and it's because of his rapidly developing curveball.

9) Alan Horne: Horne's curveball slides just a tad in our rankings this season, not because of anything he's done, but rather the fact the Yankees have added some impressive curves over the last year. He turned his once loopier curveball into a harder power curveball in his 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year season, but his shoulder problems a year ago didn't allow him to showcase it. He has one of the best curveballs around when healthy.

WICKED MOVEMENT: Vizcaino gets some of the best movement with his curveball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Arodys Vizcaino: What has mainly transformed Vizcaino from merely a high-ceiling prospect with plus potential to more of a legitimate prospect has been the rapid development of one of the best curveballs in the organization. Once a slurvy breaking ball, it is now arguably the best from a depth, break, and fading action standpoint. More consistent command of it could allow him to headline these rankings someday, it's that good.

7) Manny Banuelos: The lefty is already one of the best pitching prospects in the organization and a big reason why is his uncanny command of a plus curveball. It's not a true 12-to-6 curveball yet [it's more 11-to-5 and it does get some sweeping action, but he can spot it at will and it's a legit plus big league breaking ball that will carry him far.

6) Jairo Heredia: Like Banuelos, Heredia's masterful command of a plus big league curveball is a reason why he's one of the better pitching prospects in the organization. He throws it in the 75-78 MPH range and he can paint it in all four quadrants of the plate. A little more depth to it would allow it to rank higher here down the road, but make no mistake, it's a great pitch.

IT'S COMING: Bleich could move quickly through the minors with his plus curveball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Jeremy Bleich: Last year's supplemental first-round pick doesn't throw extremely hard, but yet he has the ability to pile up the strikeouts and it's because of his plus big league curveball. Like Vizcaino, he gets excellent depth and break to it, but his plus command of it makes it more reliable. It's not on the same level as Barry Zito's curve yet, but it's not too far either.

4) Mark Melancon: Most big league closer prospects utilize a power slider as their primary strikeout weapon, but what makes Melancon so unique is his true hammer curveball. It's a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball that nosedives into the zone and his plus command of it allows him to spot it wherever he wants. He can place it for a called strike or bury it in the dirt when he's ahead in the count for the swinging strikeout.

3) Andrew Brackman: At 6-foot-11 and without an official minor league inning to his credit, Brackman is one of the rawest pitchers around. But while developing repeatable mechanics and improving his fastball command will be a lot of hard work, the fact he has not one but two plus curveballs at his disposal will allow him to have success during his developmental time. He throws both a 12-to-6 curveball and a power knuckle curveball, and both are great strikeout weapons.

2) Dellin Betances: Like Brackman, Betances has had a hard time consistently throwing his plus fastball for strikes but hasn't had similar problems commanding his plus curveball. He gets a ton of wicked movement with his power knuckle curveball and he can rack up a ton of strikeouts [135 in 115.1 innings last season] with it. He also throw it more consistently from the same arm slot as his fastball last season and that's the final piece in his curveball puzzle.

1) Christian Garcia: It what has become one of the ho-hum rankings over the years, Garcia once again takes home the top spot for best curveball. It's his fifth straight year leading the pack with a sick power knuckle-curveball that averages 81-84 MPH. Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, the time has come for Garcia to prove he has one of the better curveballs at the big league level in the not-so-distant future.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nHonorable Mention
\r\n
\r\nD.J. Mitchell: Mitchell's curveball is so new that he has a hard time cracking the Top Ten for now...but it's currently good enough to find a permanent home there in the coming seasons. He used to throw a slurvy breaking ball that was more of a slider in college, but he has quickly changed it into a legitimate plus big league curveball. A little more proving it on the field this coming year is all he needs.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
COMING SOON: Richardson's overall game is raw, but his curveball has the chance to be special. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
\r\nLance Pendleton: The 25-year old gets overlooked by many because his older age at the lower minor league levels, but that shouldn't discount his stuff. Even though he has been trying to get back to his 90-94 MPH fastball after Tommy John surgery, he still struck out 119 batters in 128 innings with the Charleston Riverdogs last season on the strength of his plus curveball. It's a weapon that will keep him around for a while.
\r\n
\r\nMatt Richardson: A shortstop in high school, Richardson is a bit raw on the mound at the current time. Working on his mechanics has been and will continue to be the focal point of his development, but his above average curveball that has legitimate plus potential is a reason why he should more than hold his own while he's honing his entire game.
\r\n
\r\nBrad Rulon: The Georgia Tech product was drafted in the 34th round last season and that makes him a bit of a 'sleeper', especially considering he's armed with one of the better curveballs in the organization. Unlike most relievers who dominate in the NY-Penn League, his curveball is a legitimate inside-the-zone, swing-and-miss pitch. It's a true 12-to-6 curveball that dives down into the zone and it's one of the reasons he should not be overlooked.
\r\n
\r\nJason Stephens: He doesn't throw hard at all [87-91 MPH], but what he lacks in fastball velocity he more than makes up with 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.
\r\n
\r\nTop Ten Curveballs
\r\n
\r\n10) George Kontos: We said in this very same article a year ago that Kontos' curveball was on the cusp of being one of the best in the organization, and he went out and proved it last season. Once a get-me-over curveball, it became a legitimate strikeout weapon and a pitch that helped keep left-handed batters off of his slider in the second-half of the season last year. Kontos' game is starting to peak and it's because of his rapidly developing curveball.
\r\n
\r\n9) Alan Horne: Horne's curveball slides just a tad in our rankings this season, not because of anything he's done, but rather the fact the Yankees have added some impressive curves over the last year. He turned his once loopier curveball into a harder power curveball in his 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year season, but his shoulder problems a year ago didn't allow him to showcase it. He has one of the best curveballs around when healthy.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
WICKED MOVEMENT: Vizcaino gets some of the best movement with his curveball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Arodys Vizcaino: What has mainly transformed Vizcaino from merely a high-ceiling prospect with plus potential to more of a legitimate prospect has been the rapid development of one of the best curveballs in the organization. Once a slurvy breaking ball, it is now arguably the best from a depth, break, and fading action standpoint. More consistent command of it could allow him to headline these rankings someday, it's that good.
\r\n
\r\n7) Manny Banuelos: The lefty is already one of the best pitching prospects in the organization and a big reason why is his uncanny command of a plus curveball. It's not a true 12-to-6 curveball yet [it's more 11-to-5 and it does get some sweeping action, but he can spot it at will and it's a legit plus big league breaking ball that will carry him far.
\r\n
\r\n6) Jairo Heredia: Like Banuelos, Heredia's masterful command of a plus big league curveball is a reason why he's one of the better pitching prospects in the organization. He throws it in the 75-78 MPH range and he can paint it in all four quadrants of the plate. A little more depth to it would allow it to rank higher here down the road, but make no mistake, it's a great pitch.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
IT'S COMING: Bleich could move quickly through the minors with his plus curveball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Jeremy Bleich: Last year's supplemental first-round pick doesn't throw extremely hard, but yet he has the ability to pile up the strikeouts and it's because of his plus big league curveball. Like Vizcaino, he gets excellent depth and break to it, but his plus command of it makes it more reliable. It's not on the same level as Barry Zito's curve yet, but it's not too far either.
\r\n
\r\n4) Mark Melancon: Most big league closer prospects utilize a power slider as their primary strikeout weapon, but what makes Melancon so unique is his true hammer curveball. It's a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball that nosedives into the zone and his plus command of it allows him to spot it wherever he wants. He can place it for a called strike or bury it in the dirt when he's ahead in the count for the swinging strikeout.
\r\n
\r\n3) Andrew Brackman: At 6-foot-11 and without an official minor league inning to his credit, Brackman is one of the rawest pitchers around. But while developing repeatable mechanics and improving his fastball command will be a lot of hard work, the fact he has not one but two plus curveballs at his disposal will allow him to have success during his developmental time. He throws both a 12-to-6 curveball and a power knuckle curveball, and both are great strikeout weapons.
\r\n
\r\n2) Dellin Betances: Like Brackman, Betances has had a hard time consistently throwing his plus fastball for strikes but hasn't had similar problems commanding his plus curveball. He gets a ton of wicked movement with his power knuckle curveball and he can rack up a ton of strikeouts [135 in 115.1 innings last season] with it. He also throw it more consistently from the same arm slot as his fastball last season and that's the final piece in his curveball puzzle.
\r\n
\r\n1) Christian Garcia: It what has become one of the ho-hum rankings over the years, Garcia once again takes home the top spot for best curveball. It's his fifth straight year leading the pack with a sick power knuckle-curveball that averages 81-84 MPH. Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, the time has come for Garcia to prove he has one of the better curveballs at the big league level in the not-so-distant future.
\r\n
\r\n

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

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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