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Filthiest secondary pitches among top prospects

@JonathanMayo and @JimCallisMLB and @GoldenSombrero
February 27, 2020

Feel to spin. Deception. Missing bats. Generating weak contact. These are all terms used in describing pitchers’ secondary stuff. Whether it’s a curveball, slider, changeup or occasionally something like a splitter or cutter, these are the offerings a pitcher often uses to put away hitters. And a lot of pitching

Feel to spin. Deception. Missing bats. Generating weak contact.

These are all terms used in describing pitchers’ secondary stuff. Whether it’s a curveball, slider, changeup or occasionally something like a splitter or cutter, these are the offerings a pitcher often uses to put away hitters. And a lot of pitching prospects have some pretty good weapons at their disposal.

Call them nasty, filthy or just plain impossible to hit, here is the pitcher with the best secondary pitch in each organization.

Top 30 Prospects lists
AL East BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR
AL Central CLE, CWS, DET, KC, MIN
AL West HOU, LAA, OAK, SEA, TEX
NL East ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WSH
NL Central CHC, CIN, MIL, PIT, STL
NL West ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF
Division Team

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Nate Pearson, RHP (MLB No. 8)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
The third-ranked pitching prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, Pearson boasts the best fastball and the best slider in Toronto’s system. The latter registers in the high 80s and is effective against both right- and left-handed hitters due to its hard glove-side bite. The 6-foot-6 right-hander sets up his swing-and-miss slider with an electric, 80-grade fastball that’s been up to 104 mph (yes, really), and he rounds out his four-pitch mix with a curveball and changeup.

Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (MLB No. 36)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
All three of Rodriguez’s secondary offerings are at least average, but his slider is often his go-to put-away pitch. It’s a low-to-mid-80s plus pitch that he lands in the strike zone often that has a very good swing-and-miss rate, as evidenced by his 12.4 K/9 ratio last year.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (MLB No. 90)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
Acquired from the Pirates as the PTBNL in the Chris Archer trade, the former No. 12 overall pick (2017) can light up the radar gun with a fastball that touches triple digits, and he pairs his heater with a nasty slider that registers in the mid-to-upper 80s and features sharp bite. He has a way to go in terms of his control and command, but the stuff is electric.

Red Sox: Jay Groome, LHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect and the 12th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Groome has worked just 66 innings in four years of pro ball and had Tommy John surgery in May 2018. He still has a wicked curveball with power and depth, however, and Boston hopes it will help him finally start to take off in 2020.

Yankees: Deivi Garcia, RHP (MLB No. 92)
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000 in 2015, Garcia would have ranked second in the Minors in strikeout rate (13.3 per nine innings) last year if he weren't just short of qualifying, and he racks up a lot of whiffs with his well above-average curveball. It's a high-spin breaker with so much depth that he can't always land it for strikes, and he also has a solid mid-80s slider to give batters a different look.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Eli Morgan, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
Morgan is a 5-foot-10 right-hander with just one pitch that grades as better than average, but the 2017 eighth-rounder from Gonzaga already has reached Triple-A thanks to his plus-plus changeup. He throws it with deceptive arm speed and creates tumble and fade, confounding lefty and righty hitters alike.

Royals: Jackson Kowar, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
The second of the five college pitchers taken by the Royals with their first five picks in the 2018 Draft, Kowar rode the success of his fastball-changeup pairing up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in his first full season. The right-hander throws his plus-plus changeup in the mid-80s with fastball-like arm speed, turning it over well to impart late fade and tumbling action that nets him whiffs against hitters on both sides of the plate.

Tigers: Casey Mize, RHP (MLB No. 7)
Best secondary pitch: Splitter
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick’s splitter is one of the better secondary pitches in the Minors and earns plus-plus grades from evaluators. Mize throws the pitch in the mid-80s with outstanding late tumbling action that causes it to bottom out as it nears the plate, netting the right-hander plenty of whiffs and weak contact. And while the splitter typically is a pitch that is difficult to control, Mize does not have that problem and knows how to sequence it effectively along with his fastball and slider.

Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Splitter/sinker hybrid
As if having a fastball flirting with triple-digits wasn’t enough, Duran confounds hitters with a splitter/sinker hybrid. It comes in 88-94 mph and completely falls off the table. It’s a big reason why he struck out 10.6 per nine in 2019 and had a 1.81 GO/AO ratio.

White Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP (MLB No. 20)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
A Red Sox 2014 first-rounder who came to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade two years later, Kopech is best known for his top-of-the-scale fastball, which reportedly hit 105 mph in a 2016 start. On his way back from 2018 Tommy John surgery, he also can devastate hitters with an 85-89 mph slider that features two-plane break, and has earned comparisons to Noah Syndergaard for his overpowering stuff.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Jesus Luzardo, LHP (MLB No. 12)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
This was a tough call between Luzardo’s changeup and A.J. Puk’s slider, but Luzardo gets the nod because of his superior command of the pitch. It’s one of the best changeups of any pitching prospect in baseball, thrown with a ton of fade and sink.

Angels: Patrick Sandoval, LHP
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
Anyone who had questions about how good Sandoval’s changeup was just had to watch him in action when he got called up to the big leagues in 2019. He committed to throwing it more frequently, helping it become a truly plus pitch. He threw it over 30 percent of the time with Los Angeles and got a 49.6 percent whiff rate on it.

Astros: Bryan Abreu, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Abreu relies heavily on his plus-plus curveball, a true hammer with power, high spin rates and tremendous depth. Signed for just $40,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, he also can flash a wipeout slider with similar velocity in the mid-80s.

Mariners: Sam Delaplane, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Slider
To call Delaplane’s slider his bread-and-butter pitch would be an understatement. It’s impossible to pick up from his arm slot and it leads to a ton of strikeouts for the reliever. It had the second highest swing-and-miss rate for a slider of anyone in baseball last year. It’s a hard, short downer breaking ball that was up to 87 mph in the Arizona Fall League with premium spin rates.

Rangers: Hans Crouse, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Slider
Bone spurs in his elbow bothered Crouse when he threw his slider last year, so he used it less often than in the past. But when the 2017 second-rounder is healthy, his slider is a well above-average offering with mid-80s velocity and two-plane break.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Ian Anderson, RHP (MLB No. 37)
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
There are several good pitching prospects in the Braves system with above-average or better secondary pitches. He’ll throw it up into the mid-80s, selling it well with good arm speed and throwing it with good tail and fading action to it.

Marlins: Sixto Sanchez, RHP (MLB No. 22)
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
Sanchez's ability to generate electric stuff from a small frame draws some Pedro Martinez comparisons, and his changeup would do the Hall of Famer proud. Signed for just $35,000 out of the Dominican Republic and the headline prospect in the J.T. Realmuto trade three years later, he has a changeup that dives at the plate and plays well off his 95-99 mph fastball and hard slider.

Mets: Matt Allan, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Signed by the Mets for nearly four times his slot value after they took him in the 2019 Draft’s third round (No. 89 overall), Allan already looks the part of a future frontline starter with his combination of size, stuff and projection. The 18-year-old right-hander complements a fastball that can reach 97 mph with a curveball that scouts viewed as one of the best in his class. It’s a hammer breaking ball, registering in the low 80s with tight spin and swing-and-miss downer action.

Nationals: Tim Cate, LHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Cate’s 12-to-6 curveball has been his calling card since his days at UConn, before the Nationals selected him in the second round of the 2018 Draft. It’s a true plus pitch, thrown with both depth and tilt, and he’s comfortable using it in any count. He generates a decent number of whiffs and even more ground balls, as evidenced by his 58.3 percent ground-ball rate in 2019.

Phillies: Spencer Howard, RHP (MLB No. 34)
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
The improvement in Howard’s changeup is a huge reason for his large step forward as an overall pitching prospect. It might have been the nastiest secondary pitch in the Arizona Fall League last fall with impressive fade, depth and downward action. He has extreme confidence in it now that he’s committed to throwing it, and he’ll throw it at any point in the count.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Aaron Ashby, LHP
Best secondary pitch: Slider
A filthy slider that earns well above-average grades from evaluators headlines the 2018 fourth-rounder’s four-pitch mix. Thrown with depth, power and late downer action, the pitch was a major reason that Ashby led all Division I JUCO hurlers in strikeouts (156) in 2018 before ranking among Milwaukee’s system leaders in strikeouts (135, fifth) and strikeout rate (25.5 percent, third) in his first full season.

Cardinals: Matt Liberatore, LHP (MLB No. 58)
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
The 6-foot-5 lefty's four-pitch mix is headlined by three future above-average-or-better pitches, the best being a plus curveball in the upper 70s that he throws with three-quarters tilt, a high spin rate and excellent shape. Liberatore’s feel for the pitch also stands out, as he’s capable of landing it for a strike and taking it out of the zone to induce chases.

Cubs: Chris Clarke, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
A closer at Southern California, Clarke went in the third round to the Cubs last June because they loved his curveball and saw enough starter traits to move him to the rotation full-time. His best pitch is a well above-average curveball that confounds left-handers and right-handers alike with its power and downer break.

Pirates: Quinn Priester, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
The Pirates’ first-round pick in the 2019 Draft, Priester has a much better feel for pitching than you might expect from a high school pitcher from a cold-weather state (Illinois). But he had one of the best curveballs in his Draft class, especially among the prepsters, showing an advanced ability to spin his 80-mph breaker with good depth.

Reds: Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Changeup
Gutierrez has terrific overall stuff, but he hasn’t always executed his pitches consistently. At its best, his plus changeup complements his fastball really well to keep hitters off-balance, but he fiddled with it too much as his struggles mounted in 2019. It’s all in there for him to get back to it being an out pitch with better execution.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: J.B. Bukauskas, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Slider
Acquired from Houston in last summer’s Zack Greinke trade, Bukauskas has legitimate no-hit stuff when he’s firing on cylinders, albeit with below-average control. Each of his four pitches grade out as at least average. His best offering is his nasty slider that he throws in the mid-80s with late, swing-and-miss bite, and he can morph it into an average cutter to give hitters a different look.

Dodgers: Tony Gonsolin, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Splitter
A steal as a ninth-round senior sign for $2,500 out of St. Mary's in 2016, Gonsolin was a two-way player in college and saw his stuff take off when he became a full-time pitcher in pro ball. His fastball can touch 100 mph in short stints and both his curveball and slider/cutter are solid offerings, but his main weapon is a plus-plus splitter that arrives in the upper 80s before bottoming out at the plate.

Giants: Blake Rivera, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Rivera spent two seasons at Wallace State-Hanceville (Ala.) CC, where his curveball elicited some comparisons to that of former Lions star Craig Kimbrel. A fourth-round choice in 2018, Rivera shows a plus low-80s curve with sharp break as a starter, and the pitch might be even more devastating in shorter bursts if he winds up in the bullpen like Kimbrel.

Rockies: Riley Pint, RHP
Best secondary pitch: Curveball
Pint was the No. 4 overall pick back in the 2016 Draft and as much as he’s struggled to gain any traction, his pure stuff is still as good as when he came out of high school. That includes an absolute hammer of a curve that buckles knees when he can land it in the strike zone, which hasn’t happened all too often.

Padres: Luis Patiño, RHP (MLB No. 27)
Best secondary pitch: Slider
Patiño's lightning-quick arm gives everything he throws some serious late life, especially his mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider. The latter flashes plus-plus potential, and the 20-year-old righty throws with power in the upper 80s as well as two-plane action that makes it a lethal pitch against right-handed hitters.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.