Gavin Brooks: Brooks, a former starter, was sitting mostly in the 89-91 mph range with his fastball out of the Staten Island bullpen last season. That pales in comparison to most of the other names on this list. However, he did hit a few 93's and some 94's last year, and it stands to reason that velocity could become more of the norm as he stretches himself out. It will be a wait-and-see thing for now, but it's worth monitoring.
Harold Garce: He is already 24 years old and he has yet to pitch in the United States, although to be fair he just signed two years ago. Even though he's quite the longshot at this point given his age, the fact is he sits 94-96 mph with his fastball and he finally learned some control in 2009. Any pitcher who tops out at 99 mph deserves to be mentioned among those with the better fastballs.
Yobanny Reyes: Like Garce, Reyes is in the unique position of already being moved into the bullpen long-term, both due to his advanced age [he is already 21 years old] and the fact he comfortably sits 93-94 mph with his fastball. He too has control problems and that also makes him a longshot of making it to the big leagues with the Yankees, but the power is worth noting.
Top Ten Fastballs For Relief Pitchers
10) Adam Olbrychowski: The right-hander was reportedly more in the 92-95 mph range in college and apparently even topped out at 97 mph. He hasn't hit such high numbers in the pros yet, but he does does sit mostly 92-93 mph with his fastball and it has good movement. His biggest problem to date has been inconsistent breaking pitches, not his fastball.
9) Ryan Flannery: Posting a sub-2.00 ERA in 55 career appearances is no joke, even if Flannery has had just a few games in the long-season leagues. He has had that kind of success solely on the strength of his plus fastball that sits 92-95 mph and tops out at 97 mph. His biggest problem has been finding another pitch to go along with his fastball. Once he finds that he could really start to move.
|Elam has plus stuff, no matter what the stats say. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) Manny Barreda: Barreda won't top out as high as some of the other names on this list, but his fastball is just as effective. Last season was his first year back from Tommy John surgery and he was already back to averaging 92-93 mph. He has topped out at 95 mph and his fastball not only has good movement, but he has good command of it. His plus changeup also helps his fastball be more effective too.
6) Noel Castillo: Already 26 years old, he isn't a true prospect age-wise. However, the right-hander signed later than most, he sits comfortably in the 94-96 mph range and tops out at 98 mph, and he has some Double-A experience. His biggest issue has been developing a consistent slider, but the plus fastball is very much in place already.
|HUGE UPSIDE: Braboy has the chance to be a special reliever, thanks to his plus fastball. (Photo: Katie Nutaitis/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Romulo Sanchez: Sanchez continues the trend of plus fastball-plus changeup pitchers who can't seem to find a consistent breaking pitch. The former Pirates hurler has hit as high as 99 mph and he consistently sits in the mid-90's with his fastball. It's a big reason why he will garner a serious look at the big league bullpen in 2010.
3) Grant Duff: Like Sanchez, Duff has hit as high as 99 mph with his fastball. The former starting pitcher finally transitioned to the bullpen in the second-half of the 2009 season and saw his once average fastball average 96 mph in Double-A Trenton. The velocity dipped down a little bit in the Arizona Fall League though and it remains to be seen if last year's velocity hike was a fluke or not. There is obvious power though, even if he has issues throwing strikes.
2) Kevin Whelan: Like Duff, Whelan boasts a plus fastball that can often times miss the strike zone a bit too much. He averages 92-95 mph with his fastball, tops out at 97 mph, and his delivery allows him to hide the ball pretty well. Better command of his fastball is what's missing at this point, but he can still get a ton of guys swinging at it even when it's out of the zone.
1) Mark Melancon: Melancon still retains rookie status and even though his radar gun readings won't match some of the players ranked behind him, few have his fastball effectiveness. He mostly pounds the zone with 90-94 mph sinking fastballs, but they're not regular sinkers. They dive down and in to right-handed batters, giving it the appearance of a left-handed slider. And he also has the ability to zip in a four-seamer at 96 mph at times for good measure. The gun doesn't do his fastball justice.