1 prospect from each team who can light up the radar gun

February 29th, 2024

As fictitious Cleveland manager Lou Brown says from the dugout to his mercurial young star, “Wild Thing” Vaughn, in a climactic moment against the Yankees in the movie “Major League”:

Forget the curveball, Ricky, give him the heater.

Spoiler alert, Ricky does indeed give him the heater and blows 101 mph by feared Yankees slugger Clu Heywood to set up heroics in the bottom of the inning.

Hollywood can do a fine job dramatizing a moment. But any baseball fan knows just how exciting it can be to see someone light up the radar gun. Sure, pitching is, and should be, about more than just throwing hard.

And as we take a look at the best fastball in each farm system, keep in mind that “best” doesn’t always mean hardest. Being able to command the pitch, life up in the zone, induced vertical break … these are all things Ricky Vaughn never considered.


Blue Jays: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (MLB No. 29)
Even after battling shoulder and biceps issues last year, Tiedemann certainly looked healthy at the end of last season, sitting in the mid-90s in Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League and touching as high as 97.6 mph in front of Statcast cameras in those circuits. The 6-foot-4 left-hander throws from a tough low three-quarters slot, and hitters can even have trouble picking up the heater until it’s blown past them. It’s a big reason why Tiedemann has as much upside as any left-handed pitching prospect in the game today.

Orioles: Luis Sánchez, RHP
The Orioles signed Sánchez in November of 2019 for $200,000 a bit before they became big players again on the international market. He got a handful of starts during his 2021 debut in the Dominican Summer League, but he’s a reliever only in the “throws really hard, doesn’t always know where it’s going” category. He struck out 12.1 per nine in his full-season debut in 2023, but also walked 6.0 per nine, using a fastball that’s up to 101 mph with a ton of hop at the top of the zone.

Rays: Yoniel Curet, RHP
Curet only reached High-A in 2023 but was added to Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster when he became Rule 5-eligible in the offseason. A big reason why? They didn’t want to risk losing his heater. The 21-year-old right-hander throws a four-seamer that touches 98 and explodes up in the zone, getting whiffs on its own and helping his plus slider also play up. Curet struck out 144 in 104 innings last season but will need to improve control before seeing the bigs.

Red Sox: Luis Perales, RHP
Signed for just $75,000 out of Venezuela in July 2019, Perales touched 95 mph with his fastball in the Dominican Republic's Tricky League a month later and now operates in the mid-90s and maxes out at 99 with a flat approach angle and tremendous carry. He logged a 3.91 ERA, .230 opponent average and 115 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings between two Class A levels at age 20.

Yankees: Carlos Lagrange, RHP
Just months after turning pro for a mere $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in January 2022, the 6-foot-7 Lagrange was unleashing some upper-90s fastballs in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He regularly deals at 94-97 mph and reaches triple digits, favoring a heavy two-seamer over a riding four-seamer, and he topped the Rookie-level Florida Complex League with 63 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings during his U.S. debut last year.


Guardians: Daniel Espino, RHP (MLB No. 100)
Espino's pure stuff ranks with the best in the Minors, starting with a four-seamer that parks at 95-98 mph and peaks at 103 with plenty of armside run, and he has the aptitude to work it at the top or bottom of the strike zone. The only knock on the 2019 first-rounder from a Georgia high school is that he has pitched just 18 1/3 innings in the last two seasons. Knee tendinitis sidelined him in May 2022 before he developed shoulder soreness while rehabbing, leading to surgery last May to repair a muscle strain and capsule tear. When healthy, he has recorded 221 strikeouts in 133 2/3 pro innings.

Royals: John McMillon, RHP
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, McMillon made his Major League debut in mid-August and immediately showed the plus-plus heater he rode to The Show. His four-seamer averaged 98.8 mph during his four-game stay in the bigs, putting him in Emmanuel Clase and Jacob deGrom territory for velo, and he touched as high as 100.6. The movement profile is closer to average, but at that level of heat, it’s clear why Kansas City believes McMillon has back-of-the-bullpen potential.

Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (MLB No. 25)
By his own admission, the 2021 third overall pick entered the professional ranks with a “dead-zone fastball” and has worked on adding more ride during his time in the Tigers system. The progress has been impressive as he’s up to 94-97 mph with an aim to show 18 inches of induced vertical break. He commands his improved heater especially well despite the increased movement and walked only six over 64 Minor League innings in 2023.

Twins: Matt Canterino, RHP
Tip of the cap to David Festa, who might throw a touch harder at this point than Canterino and has stayed healthy. Both get swings-and-misses with their heaters, but a healthy Canterino -- and the Twins are hopeful for that in 2024 -- has elite movement on his plus fastball that averages around 95 mph and touches 97 mph.

White Sox: Jordan Leasure, RHP
The Dodgers helped Leasure upgrade his stuff after drafting him in 2021's 14th round after his fifth year at NCAA Division II Tampa, then included him in the Lance Lynn/Joe Kelly deal with the White Sox last July. He has gone from a fairly ordinary low-90s fastball in college to a 96-98 mph heater that touches 100 coming out of a low release height with a lot of extension in his delivery. He has a 3.76 ERA with a .200 opponent average and 176 strikeouts in 117 1/3 career innings, and he could be closing games for Chicago in the near future.


Angels: Ben Joyce, RHP
We’ve been talking about Joyce’s fastball since his Draft year in 2022 when he averaged 101 mph and topped out at 105.5 mph at Tennessee. The Angels’ third-round pick made his big league debut in his first full season and struck out 13.8 per nine in Double-A, though concerns about his durability remain after he missed several months. When he was on the mound, his fastball still averaged 100.4 mph and topped out at 103.

A’s: Mason Miller, RHP
We know that if Miller can stay healthy, his power stuff is going to play in the big leagues. The slider might be the out pitch, but he also elicited a 30 percent miss rate on his fastball in the Minors and the big leagues in 2023, a pitch that averaged over 98 mph and reached 103 mph with plenty of carry up in the zone.

Astros: Miguel Ullola, RHP
Ullola could be yet another older bargain pitcher on the international market for the Astros, who signed him for $75,000 as an 18 1/2-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2019. His four-seamer operates at 92-95 and tops out at 97 mph and is so electric with its flat approach angle and exceptional carry that Minor Leaguers have done little against it, though he often has to sacrifice some velocity to throw strikes. He averaged 13.2 strikeouts -- and 6.7 walks -- per nine innings in his first three pro seasons.

Mariners: Cole Phillips, RHP
It might seem strange to pick a guy who just got to the organization -- courtesy of the trade with the Braves that sent Jarred Kelenic to Atlanta – and who has yet to throw an official professional pitch. And he won’t until 2025 because of a second Tommy John surgery he required just ahead of Spring Training. Assuming it comes back once he’s healthy, it’s a mid-90s pitch that sneaks up to triple digits and features excellent running action.

Rangers: Emiliano Teodo, RHP
Teodo was nearly 19 when he signed for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2020 and wowed scouts by touching 102 mph during instructional league that fall. Though he can pitch at 95-98 mph and reach 103 with his four-seamer, it tended to flatten out at higher velocities, so he switched at midseason last year to a two-seamer with similar heat and plenty of sink. He has averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter in each of the last two seasons, then won Arizona Fall League relief pitcher of the year accolades last offseason.


Braves: AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (MLB No. 69)
Even though Smith-Shawver raced his way from High-A to the big leagues in 2023, he’s far from a finished product. He’s just 21 for all of the 2024 season, so there could be more in the tank in terms of consistent velocity to come as he figures things out. And he already has plenty of fastball, a pitch that sat around 95 mph last year and touched triple digits with good life.

Marlins: Thomas White, LHP (LHP No. 8)
White ranked as the best left-hander in the 2023 Draft, in part because he has a fastball that already sits at 92-95 mph and reaches 97 with run and carry. Signed for mid-first-round money ($4.1 million) as a supplemental first-rounder from a Massachusetts high school, he could add more velocity as he fills out his projectable 6-foot-5 frame, though he'll need to improve his command of his heater.

Mets: Raimon Gomez, RHP
Gomez looked primed for a breakout in 2023 with a fastball that was averaging 100 mph in Spring Training backfields outings, but Tommy John surgery ended that after three High-A starts. The 6-foot-2 right-hander was generally closer to 96-98 mph in regular-season outings before the procedure, and he had the ride up in the zone to get whiffs (12 in seven innings). Keep an eye on Gomez’s post-TJ return this summer before he becomes Rule-5 eligible in the offseason.

Nationals: Jarlin Susana, RHP
One of the prospect pieces involved in the 2022 blockbuster trade involving Juan Soto, Susana continues to have one of the hottest heaters in the Minors, touching as high as 103 and sitting 97-99. Velo alone would get it an 80 grade, but it’s fairly straight, something upper-level hitters will be able to pick up, and his command can be scattershot. Still, 103 is 103, and Susana will still only be 20 on Opening Day, making him another high-upside talent in the Nats system.

Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (MLB No. 27)
This one is on hold for now as Tommy John surgery in late July will keep Painter out for the season (Note to Phillies: We would be OK seeing him in the Arizona Fall League.). But his combination of stuff and command makes his whole arsenal stand out, starting with a fastball that can hit triple digits and averaged around 96 mph in 2022. He actually has both a sinking two-seamer and a four-seamer with high spin rates up in the zone.


Brewers: Jacob Misiorowski, RHP (MLB No. 33)
Looking like he’s all elbows and limbs from the bump, Misiorowski is 6-foot-7 and gets big extension to look like he’s right on top of opposing batters from a low three-quarters slot. As if that didn’t make things hard enough, he sits in the upper-90s with his heater and can crank it up well into triple digits, as he did in the Futures Game where he touched 102.4 mph. Control is a big issue with Misiorowski’s explosive arsenal, but even his floor could be that of a nasty Major League reliever.

Cardinals: Edwin Nunez, RHP
Since he debuted in 2021, Nunez has shown one of the best fastballs in the Cardinals system, and that claim continued last season, when he topped out at 99.9 mph in the Florida State League and threw 24 of the 30 hardest pitches of Single-A Palm Beach’s campaign. The heater acts more like a sinker and is more hittable than the radar gun would indicate, but the 22-year-old has few rivals when it comes to pure velocity as he climbs toward the upper Minors.

Cubs: Luke Little, LHP
Little purportedly hit 105 mph in a video posted on social media during the pandemic, and while that may or may not have been real, he did touch 102 at San Jacinto (Texas) JC in the spring of 2020 before going in the fourth round of that year's Draft. He has dialed back his fastball a bit to find more strikes yet still works at 94-96 mph and touches 99, and it plays better than its velocity thanks to its carry and the huge extension he creates with his 6-foot-8 frame. He notched 225 strikeouts in 140 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .178 average in three years in the Minors before making his big league debut last September and fanning 12 of the 30 batters he faced.

Pirates: Paul Skenes, RHP (MLB No. 3)
Best fastball in the system? How about best fastball in the Minors? An argument certainly can be made as the No. 1 pick in last year’s Draft brings a heater that averaged 98 mph at Louisiana State last year and topped out at 102 mph. His flat approach angle and carry make the heater extremely difficult to hit and he commands it very well, reasons why he had a 30-percent miss rate on it last spring.

Reds: Connor Phillips, RHP (MLB No. 70)
Phillips has long showed off elite-level stuff while still learning how to harness it. Across all levels, including his big league debut late last year, he’s produced a 12.7 percent strikeout rate, while walking 5.3 per nine. He was up to 99 mph with his fastball across three levels in 2023, sitting around 96 mph, and features high spin and big induced vertical break to elicit swings-and-misses.


D-backs: Justin Martinez, RHP
Entering Wednesday, Martinez has the 14 fastest pitches thrown in front of Statcast cameras this spring, each of which was thrown at 100.2 mph and above. Go back to last year, and the 22-year-old right-hander averaged 99.9 mph on his heater over 47 appearances with Triple-A Reno – the highest average fastball velo at the Minors’ top level – and in 10 Major League outings, that was up to 100.6, fourth-best among hurlers with at least 100 pitches. Martinez has to improve a walk rate around 20 percent, but that elite heat will keep getting him chances.

Dodgers: Nick Frasso, RHP (MLB No. 80)
Frasso has become the Dodgers' best pitching prospect since they acquired him in a 2022 trade that sent Mitch White and infield prospect Alex DeJesus to the Blue Jays, though he may miss all of this year following surgery last November to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. His fastball ranges from 94-97 mph and reaches 100 with armside run, and the extension he creates with his delivery may be just as impressive as his velocity. He posted a 3.77 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 93 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Giants: Kyle Harrison, LHP (MLB No. 23)
Harrison's fastball is the biggest reason why he's the game's top-rated lefty pitching prospect, playing well above its 92-97 mph velocity because of its riding action, flat approach angle and the extension in his delivery. The 2020 third-rounder from a California high school led the Minors in strikeout rate (14.8 per nine innings) and percentage (39.8) in 2022 and was making a run at repeating last year until he was promoted to San Francisco 10 days after his 22nd birthday.

Padres: Jairo Iriarte, RHP
San Diego flirted with the idea of using Iriarte in their Major League bullpen in the second half of the 2023 season and gave him relief looks in Double-A because his mid-90s fastball works so well. The 22-year-old right-hander makes that velo look rather effortless, and his fastball can show both good ride and run, drifting up and in on righties and up and away from lefties as he wears out the high armside corner of the zone.

Rockies: Chase Dollander, RHP (MLB No. 52)
Jaden Hill deserves a mention as does Victor Vodnik in terms of pure velocity. But with both being relievers, Dollander’s ability to maintain his stuff, even though he wasn’t quite as dominant as some expected during his junior year at Tennessee, gives him the edge. The Rockies’ first-rounder last summer still averaged around 96 mph with his fastball in 2023 and touched 99 mph. The pitch has excellent carry and missed bats at a 30-percent rate last spring.