Pitching isn’t only about how hard you throw. But it sure doesn’t hurt to be able to crank it up when needed, right?
Evaluating a fastball isn’t only about the radar-gun reading, though that’s the thing most people see and talk about. Those triple-digit readings on the scoreboard are sure to cause a buzz to run through a crowd, and who didn’t love seeing Dustin May average 99.1 mph in 2020, the highest average fastball velocity in the big leagues last season?
The list below, of the best fastball among prospects for all 30 teams, obviously includes velocity but also takes movement, command and spin rate into account. Of the 30 pitchers below, some are elite-level (12 are among the Top 100 Prospects), but some aren’t even on their team’s Top 30 list.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Nate Pearson, RHP (MLB No. 10)
No debate out of the gate. Pearson earns the elite 80 grade on his fastball for its ability to sit around 96-100 and touch a few ticks above that, as he’s done in shorter outings. Pearson’s 104 in the 2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game was the stuff of legend the moment it left his hand. Even with that heat, the 6-foot-6 right-hander can command the fastball fairly well for its velocity. Pearson remains out with a groin injury this spring, but when he returns, his fastball will be a big reason why he will slot right back into Toronto’s rotation.
Orioles: DL Hall, LHP (MLB No. 70)
It might be a coin flip between Hall and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, but Hall gets the slight edge because he might throw a touch harder (96-99 mph consistently at the Orioles’ alternate camp) and, of course, because he’s left-handed. It’s not just velocity -- he throws the pitch with excellent life as well.
Rays: Luis Patiño, RHP (MLB No. 19)
A legitimate debate for the claim of Tampa Bay’s top prospect fastball and, no surprise, it’s because there are plentiful options. Patiño earns the honor over fellow flamethrowers Shane Baz and Shane McClanahan because of the way his heater marries the best concepts of the pitch. During his trip to The Show last year with the Padres, the 21-year-old right-hander ranked in the 93rd percentile for his 96.7 mph-average velocity and 89th for spin rate. While he struggled to spot the offering at times in the bigs, Patiño has the athleticism to project to have above-average command of the pitch as he matures. It should be fun to see what Tampa Bay’s pitching development team can do with Patiño in his first season following the Blake Snell trade.
Red Sox: Bryan Mata, RHP
Boston landed Mata, its best pitching prospect, with a $25,000 bonus out of Venezuela in 2015. He features electric sink and unusual velocity on his two-seam fastball, which sits at 93-97 mph, and he has pushed his four-seamer past 100 mph. His immediate future is uncertain, however, after he was diagnosed with a small ligament tear in his elbow earlier this month.
Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP
Signed for $90,000 out of the Dominican Republic by the Twins in 2015, Gil missed his first full year as a pro due to shoulder surgery but came back to flash a mid-90s fastball in 2017. Acquired by the Yankees in a spring 2018 trade for Jake Cave, he now works at 95-98 mph deep into games and regularly tops out in triple-digits with significant carry up in the strike zone.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Emmanuel Clase, RHP
Clase's fastball ranges from 97-102 mph but may be even more notable for crazy cutting and riding action that makes it nearly impossible to square up. Originally signed by the Padres for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, he went to the Rangers in exchange for Brett Nicholas in 2018 and to the Indians as part of a deal for Corey Kluber a year later.
Royals: Daniel Lynch, LHP (MLB No. 29)
In a system with some notable arms at the top, Lynch has stood out for the way his fastball has improved since Kansas City took him 34th overall in 2018. The 6-foot-6 southpaw used to be much more reliant on his breaking stuff at the University of Virginia, but since then, the Royals have worked with him to establish more confidence in the heater. Now, he throws 95-97 and can touch higher when he really needs it, as he showcased in the Arizona Fall League and last year’s alternate-site play. Lynch should be on the mark to join the big club at some point in 2021.
Tigers: Tarik Skubal, LHP (MLB No. 24)
Another tough decision with Casey Mize and Matt Manning also in the pipeline, but Skubal gets the nod for the fastball he showcased quite often in the Majors last season. The southpaw averaged 94.4 mph and 11.1 inches of horizontal break (4.5 more than the average) with his fastball last season. That generated swings-and-misses 28.3 percent of the time he threw it, 37th-best in the Majors among the 164 pitchers who faced at least 50 batters. That could go up as Skubal gains even more confidence with his ability to throw the pitch at the top level, particularly toward the top of the zone where he thrives most.
Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP
Duran’s fastball sits around 97 mph and he was touching triple-digits on a regular basis at the Twins’ alternate site, coming from an imposing 6-foot-5 frame. He has solid command of the pitch as well, receiving a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
White Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP (MLB No. 39)
Kopech legendarily hit 105 mph during a 2016 Minor League start and usually deals at 95-99 mph, reaching the 100s with late run. A Red Sox first-rounder as a Texas high schooler in 2014, he came to the White Sox as part of the Chris Sale trade at the 2016 Winter Meetings and is completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery in August 2018.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP
The Angels lost their 2020 representative on this list, Jose Soriano, to the Rule 5 Draft, so it makes sense to replace him with their own Rule 5 selection, right? Los Angeles took Rivera from the Astros last December because of his arm strength, even though he’s yet to pitch above A ball. Rivera’s velocity has ticked upwards and he now hits 95-98 mph consistently while touching triple-digits at times with good movement.
Astros: Jojanse Torres, RHP
Signed for $150,000 at the relatively ancient age of 22 years and eight months out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, Torres has made up for lost time by dominating with his fastball. He operates at 94-98 mph and peaks at 100 with high spin rates on his four-seamer, and he can maintain that velocity deep into starts.
Athletics: Wandisson Charles, RHP
Charles broke out as a prospect in 2019, when he pitched across three levels to reach Double-A. The power-armed reliever has the highest average velocity in the organization, with a fastball that regularly reaches 100 mph and above.
Mariners: Logan Gilbert, RHP (MLB No. 33)
Gilbert hits this list for the second straight year because of his combination of velocity, command, movement and angle. He’s up to 97 mph with the pitch and sits in the mid-90s without effort, holding his velocity deep into starts and throwing it with outstanding life. It’s even better because of the extension he gets from his 6-foot-6 frame.
Rangers: Demarcus Evans, RHP
Evans topped all Minor League relievers in strikeout rate (16.6 per nine innings) in 2018 and in opponent average (.119) in 2019, then posted a 2.25 ERA in his first four big league appearances last summer. A 25th-round pick out of a Mississippi high school in 2015, his success is built on a 93-96 mph fastball that plays well above its velocity because of high spin rates, uncanny vertical movement and the extension in his delivery.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Kyle Muller, LHP
Since getting drafted in 2016, Muller has worked to increase his velocity. He made a big jump in 2018 and has shown that wasn’t a fluke. The southpaw sat in the upper-90s and reached triple-digits at the Braves’ alternate site in 2020, with good spin rates up in the zone. No wonder they added him to the 40-man roster this past offseason.
Marlins: Sixto Sánchez, RHP (MLB No. 15)
Sánchez has blossomed into one of the game's best pitching prospects since the Phillies signed him for $35,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, in part because he has a two-seamer that parks at 95-97 mph with power sink and a four-seamer that operates at 97-99 with riding action. The centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto trade also has a dastardly changeup, as well as a curveball and cutter that show flashes of becoming plus offerings.
Mets: Matthew Allan, RHP (MLB No. 75)
The Mets famously made a big bet on Allan by signing him for $2.5 million out of the 2019 third round, and the 6-foot-3 right-hander is well on his way to paying dividends, as his fastball suggests. Heading into his age-20 season, Allan already pumps the heater in the mid-90s, and he locates it well to all parts of the zone. The reliability of the fastball allowed the Florida native to focus on other aspects of his repertoire at least year’s alternate site, but don’t let it be lost that his fastball is the foundation of his profile.
Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
Washington likes its big, tall pitchers who throw hard, and the Nationals may have found just the prototype in their 2019 first-rounder. At 6-foot-8, Rutledge is a dominating presence on the mound, and he uses all of that size to throw a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, touches 99 and comes in with a ton of spin as well. While others with his height might struggle with control, Rutledge can spot the fastball fairly well and grew in that department last year at the alternate site. He has the potential to reach the Top-100 list at some point this summer once he picks up more professional innings.
Phillies: Spencer Howard, RHP (MLB No. 42)
Howard’s fastball is about more than velocity, though he has plenty of that. Even during his slightly uneven big league debut, he was up to 97 mph with his four-seamer, and the pitch plays up more because of excellent spin rates that help it miss bats up in the zone. He’s been up to 99 mph in the past, so there could be more in the tank.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Antoine Kelly, LHP
At 6-foot-6, Kelly had the frame to throw heat when the Brewers took him in the second round of the 2019 Draft out of an Illinois junior college. One year later, the southpaw backed up that promise by throwing in the high-90s during his time at the Brewers’ alternate site. Even before that impressive jump in velo, Kelly had relied almost solely on his fastball to strike out 41 batters in only 28 2/3 innings in the Arizona League in his Draft year. The rest of the arsenal needs to be sharpened, but Kelly’s fastball alone makes him one of the best pitching prospects in the Milwaukee system.
Cardinals: Edwin Nunez, RHP
Consider this a coming attraction. Nunez signed with the Cardinals for $525,000 last June after MLB declared him ineligible for a year due to an age issue. Now that he’s officially in the system, the 19-year-old right-hander isn’t far off from showing off the velocity that made him worth the wait for St. Louis. Nunez throws regularly in the high-90s already and has touched 100 coming out of a clean delivery. The breaking ball and changeup will need to come in time, but the Cards already have plenty to work with when it comes to heat here.
Cubs: Brailyn Marquez, LHP (MLB No. 60)
Marquez's fastball velocity has steadily increased since he signed for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, receiving the largest bonus any left-hander got on the international amateur market that year. He has gone from working at 91-93 mph in 2017 to 93-96 in 2018 to 96-98 in his last full season in 2019, when he hit 102.
Pirates: Blake Cederlind, RHP
A change to a relief role in 2018 has helped Cederlind’s career take off, as he pitched across three levels in 2019 and reached the big leagues last year. He did it leaning heavily on one pitch: a sinking fastball that averaged just over 98 mph in the Majors in 2020 and topped out over 100 mph, missing bats and getting weak contact on the ground.
Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (MLB No. 71)
Greene made headlines for hitting 100 mph as a high school senior, then lit up the Futures Game radar gun in 2018 with a string of triple-digit readings. We’ve had to wait to see it again after he had Tommy John surgery wipe out his 2019 season, but he was up over 100 mph in Cactus League games this spring.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Conor Grammes, RHP
The Arizona system is definitely heavier on the position players, so maybe it makes sense that Grammes -- a part-time infielder during his days at Xavier -- can claim this spot. The right-hander showed plenty of raw talent when he did appear on the mound in college, and after going in the fifth round of the 2019 Draft, he is already showcasing a 70-grade heater that touches 100 with impressive life. The D-backs will have to decide whether they want to make Grammes a starter or put him on the fast track in relief, but it’s a testament to Grammes’ present fastball that Arizona wants to find him a route to a Major League mound after his split days as a Cavalier.
Dodgers: Bobby Miller, RHP
A first-round pick out of Louisville last June, Miller carries mid-90s velocity into the late innings and has topped out at 99 mph. His heater also features heavy life that makes it that much more difficult to barrel, allowing him to overmatch hitters at the Dodgers' alternate site and instructional league program.
Giants: Camilo Doval, RHP
Doval generates unusual velocity for someone dealing from a low three-quarters slot, sitting at 93-98 mph and repeatedly hitting triple-digits with nasty cutting and sinking action. Signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, he's a reliever who relies heavily on his fastball.
Padres: Dauris Valdez, RHP
The first thing anyone notices about Valdez is his size at 6-foot-8, 254 pounds. But it doesn’t take long for the fastball to become the next talking point. The 25-year-old right-hander routinely sits in the upper-90s and has touched triple digits numerous times. The heater doesn’t quite get the 80-grades that velocity alone would indicate because Valdez can struggle locating it at times, but it is firmly a plus to plus-plus pitch because of the way it blows by hitters. If Valdez can squeeze out just a touch more command early in 2021, expect him to bring the heat to the Petco Park bullpen this summer.
Rockies: Riley Pint, RHP
While he hasn’t lived up to expectations since becoming the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, the stuff is still there. You might see him on any given day and think he can get big leaguers out. That starts with his premium fastball, which he still runs up in the 97-101 mph range, albeit without any real command.