The best pitches on the free-agent market
Whatever you're looking for in a pitcher -- an overpowering fastball, a frisbee slider, a fall-off-the-table changeup -- you can find it on the free-agent market.
So let's do it. These are the free-agent pitchers who throw the best version of each pitch type.
We already looked at the free-agent hitters with the best tools. Now we're looking for the pitchers with the best four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup and splitter.
One thing: We're not using any pitcher for more than one pitch type … so this won't just be "Jacob deGrom" over and over again.
Here are the best pitches on the 2022-23 free-agent market.
4-seam fastball: Carlos Rodón
This was a battle between Rodón and Justin Verlander, who can still reach 99 mph entering his age-40 season. Both of their four-seamers were among the most valuable pitches in baseball in 2022. But Rodón's lefty heater, which averaged a career-high 95.5 mph this season and continued to touch triple digits, is more of a swing-and-miss pitch at this stage. Rodón generated a 28% whiff rate and 31% strikeout rate with his four-seamer in 2022, compared to Verlander's 18% whiff rate and 16% strikeout rate. Rodón led the Majors with 273 swinging strikes on his four-seamer, and he tied for the MLB lead with 135 strikeouts on his four-seamer.
Honorable mention: Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Aroldis Chapman
Sinker: Adam Ottavino
If Noah Syndergaard was still throwing 100 mph, he'd probably have the best sinker of any free agent. But now he's just one of a pack of effective sinkerballers available, along with the likes of Chris Bassitt. Over the course of the 2022 season, the runs Syndergaard and Bassitt prevented with their sinkers added up to two of the best totals in the league. But the nastiest free-agent sinker belongs to a reliever. Ottavino's mid-90s sinker gets strong movement in both directions, averaging 24.7 inches of drop (+3.2 inches above average) and 16.4 inches of run (+1.2 inches above average) in 2022. It's the perfect pitch to pair with his sweeping slider.
Honorable mention: Chris Bassitt, Noah Syndergaard, Ross Stripling, Miguel Castro
Cutter: Kenley Jansen
One of the greatest cutters of this generation is available again with Jansen hitting free agency for a second straight offseason. The veteran closer's cutter was every bit as effective with the Braves in 2022 as it used to be with the Dodgers, averaging 92.2 mph with 8.4 inches of horizontal movement. That's more cut overall than any other cutter and 3.7 inches more cut than the average big league cutter. Jansen threw his cutter nearly two thirds of the time last season and struck out 52 batters with it, second-most among relievers.
Honorable mention: David Robertson, Corey Kluber, Evan Phillips, Erasmo Ramirez
Slider: Jacob deGrom
deGrom's 100 mph fastball is nasty. His 95 mph slider is even nastier. That's why he's in the slider spot on this list. deGrom's slider is the best pitch thrown by the best pitcher in the world. The Mets' two-time Cy Young Award winner throws the hardest slider in the Majors -- averaging 92.6 mph in 2022, it was harder than over 200 pitchers' fastballs. He dialed that slider up to as high as 96.1 mph this season, and his 95.7 mph slider to strike out Austin Riley on Aug. 7 was one of the nastiest pitches of the year. deGrom got whiffs on 54% of swings against his slider, and 54% of the plate appearances decided by his slider were strikeouts.
Honorable mention: Adam Ottavino, Evan Phillips, Alex Reyes
Curveball: Jameson Taillon
Taillon's curveball, which he uses to attack the bottom of the strike zone, works nicely with the elevated four-seamer approach he's embraced over the last few years. With the Yankees in 2022, Taillon's curveball was his best pitch. The right-hander's high-spin curve (2,734 rpm average spin rate) held hitters to a .168 batting average and .228 slugging percentage. Taillon struck out 43 batters with his curveball while allowing just three extra-base hits in 101 at-bats.
Honorable mention: Craig Kimbrel, Seth Lugo, José Quintana, Justin Verlander, Zach Eflin
Changeup: Tommy Kahnle
Kahnle's changeup is so good that, when he returned to the Dodgers from injury in mid-September, he was throwing it 83% of the time, compared to just 17% fastballs. The right-hander's changeup is one of the faster offspeed pitches in baseball, sitting at 89.9 mph, and it gets great vertical movement, with 31.4 inches of drop in 2022, 3.1 inches more than an average changeup. Hitters went just 3-for-32 with three singles and 12 strikeouts against Kahnle's changeup in 2022, an .094 batting average and slugging percentage. Kahnle's changeup was one of the best in MLB at suppressing offense during his time on the mound.
Honorable mention: Jacob deGrom, Matt Moore, Zach Davies
Splitter: Nathan Eovaldi
The best splitter might actually belong to Kodai Senga, but we won't know for sure until the Japanese ace shows it off in the big leagues. Among free agents already pitching in MLB, the best splitter is Eovaldi's, narrowly edging Aroldis Chapman and the tumbling, knuckleball-like splitter he introduced at the end of 2020. Chapman held hitters to a .115 batting average against his splitter in 2022, but Eovaldi's is a more consistent weapon. He uses it more than Chapman (21% to 15%) and, most importantly, uses it to attack both right-handed and left-handed hitters, while Chapman only throws his splitter to righties. Eovaldi's splitter has great movement -- it drops 34.1 inches on average, 3.3 inches more than an average splitter, and gets 12.4 inches of horizontal break. He allowed a .181 batting average on his splitter in 2022 (almost the same as '21, when he allowed a .183 average) with a 39% whiff rate and 33% strikeout rate.
Honorable mention: Aroldis Chapman, Taijuan Walker, Hirokazu Sawamura, Chasen Shreve