Perhaps nothing gets a ballpark buzzing more than a long home run or a sizzling fastball. Scoreboards display velocity so fans can marvel at how hard flamethrowers deliver their heat.
The current king of big league fastballers is Jordan Hicks, who threw the 23 fastest pitches in MLB last year -- even though his season ended on June 22 when he blew out his elbow. He averaged 101.1 mph and topped out at 104.3, and he hit 105.0 twice the year before.
There's more to a fastball than sheer velocity, of course. Movement, command and deception also are important, and we've considered those factors while identifying the pitcher with the best heater in each organization below. Our list includes five Top 100 Prospects with top-of-the-scale fastballs, headlined by Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Nate Pearson, RHP (MLB No. 8)
Pearson established himself as one of the hardest throwers in the Minors when he ran his heater up to 104 mph (and sat 103) during a one-inning, 2018 AFL Fall Stars Game outing. As a starter, he typically operates with an explosive 98-101 mph fastball and uses his 6-foot-6 frame to create a steep downhill plane to the plate.
Orioles: Hunter Harvey, RHP
As a starter, Harvey had an impressive fastball, sitting at 92-95 mph and touching 96-97. As a reliever in shorter stints, he averaged just over 98 mph and became familiar with triple digits on occasion, throwing the pitch with good angle. The 2013 first-rounder has had trouble staying healthy, but it’s looking like the Orioles will be getting return on their initial Draft investment with Harvey serving as a short reliever.
Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (MLB No. 90)
Acquired from the Pirates in the 2018 Chris Archer trade, Baz ditched his two-seam fastball upon joining the Rays in favor of a four-seamer that sits in the mid-90s and routinely reaches triple digits. Whether Baz can refine his secondary pitches and control will likely dictate his future role, but the fastball alone gives the 20-year-old right-hander a chance to be a shutdown bullpen piece if starting doesn’t work out.
Red Sox: Yoan Aybar, LHP
The Red Sox envisioned Aybar as a potential five-tool center fielder when he signed for $450,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but his bat never got going and he moved to the mound five years later. He's still raw, hasn't advanced past high Class A and won't be more than a reliever, but he regularly works at 94-97 mph and tops out at 99 -- a max velocity reached by just eight big league lefties in 2019.
Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP
Signed by the Twins for $90,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Gil missed all of the next season after shoulder surgery but returned with a mid-90s heater. Since joining the Yankees in a trade for Jake Cave in March 2018, he has further boosted his fastball to where it sits at 95-98 mph and often reaches triple digits while also featuring significant riding action. He posted a 2.72 ERA, .205 opponent average and 123 strikeouts in 96 innings between two Class A levels last year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Emmanuel Clase, RHP
Clase has an unusual fastball that ranges from 97-102 mph with crazy cutting and riding life that makes it almost impossible for hitters to barrel. Signed by the Padres for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in February 2015, he went to the Rangers in a trade for Brett Nicholas in April 2018 and to the Indians as part of the Corey Kluber deal last December. He made his big league debut last summer with Texas, logging a 2.31 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
Royals: Daniel Lynch, LHP (MLB No. 61)
Lynch’s velocity has ticked up in the pro ranks after the Royals suggested he throw more fastballs after they took him with the No. 34 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. The 6-foot-6 southpaw now consistently sits around 94-96 mph with a lively fastball that nets him whiffs inside the zone, and he’s shown the ability to reach back for upper-90s velocity in shorter stints.
Tigers: Jason Foley, RHP
Signed by the Tigers in 2016 after he went undrafted out of Sacred Heart, Foley already had proved one of the organization’s hardest throwers with a triple-digit heater before he required Tommy John surgery and missed all of ‘18. Fortunately, Foley’s pre-surgery velocity was still there when he finally returned to the mound last summer, with reports of the 24-year-old sitting comfortably in the mid- to upper-90s.
Twins: Jhoan Duran, RHP
The trade of Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers left an opening for “best fastball” in the Twins' organization and Duran was the obvious successor. His heater ticked up in 2019 and he averaged 97 mph for most of the season. He also topped 100 mph on occasion and his command of the pitch, to go along with his filthy splitter/sinker hybrid, took a very nice step forward to make him a much more intriguing pitching prospect overall.
White Sox: Michael Kopech, RHP (MLB No. 20)
Kopech has yet to pitch in a game since having Tommy John surgery in September 2018, but before his elbow gave out he regularly worked at 95-99 mph and climbed into triple digits. A Red Sox 2014 first-rounder, he famously hit 105 mph during a July 2016 start before going to the White Sox as part of a package for Chris Sale five months later.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Jose Soriano, RHP
When the Angels signed Soriano back in 2016, they felt confident he would grow into his frame and add velocity as he matured. Sure enough, he keeps adding velocity to his electric fastball and he’s currently sitting comfortably around 96-97 mph and flirting with triple digits. His stuff is unhittable; the next step will be improving his overall command.
Astros: Jojanse Torres, RHP
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $150,000 at the relatively ancient age of 22 in 2018, Torres dominated in his U.S. debut last year, going 12-0 with a 1.71 ERA, .175 opponent average and 107 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings between two Class A levels. He has shown the ability to hold a mid-90s fastball late into games as a starter and regularly touches 100 mph, especially in shorter stints.
A's: A.J. Puk, LHP (MLB No. 60)
It’s easy to argue that Puk has the best fastball of any left-handed pitching prospect in the game. The 2016 first-round pick gets a 70 grade on the pitch, and during his big league debut, he averaged 97 mph with it. Pitching in shorter relief stints, he also topped 100 mph, but even as a starter he has the ability to throw in the upper-90s deep into starts.
Mariners: Logan Gilbert, RHP (MLB No. 38)
There might be others on this list who throw harder than Gilbert, but his combination of velocity, life and command makes his fastball very tough to hit. Bigger and more physical than when he came out of college in the 2018 Draft, he’s now sitting in the mid 90s and topping out at 97 mph. He throws his heater with a ton of life and maintains his velocity deep into starts, using his 6-foot-6 frame to his advantage.
Rangers: Demarcus Evans, RHP
Evans led all Minor League relievers (minimum 50 innings) in strikeout rate (16.6 per nine innings) in 2018 and in opponent average (.119) in 2019, thanks in large part to an uncommon fastball package. The 25th-round pick in 2015 from a Mississippi high school combines 93-97 mph velocity with high spin rates, outstanding vertical movement and good extension that provide a ton of deception.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Kyle Muller, LHP
The Braves took this 6-foot-6 left-hander in the second round of the 2016 Draft and have watched him mature, both physically and as an all-around pitcher. He’s now regularly up to 95 mph and consistently touches 96-97. That mid-90s velocity is still there late in games, though he does fall in love with his fastball at times.
Marlins: Edward Cabrera, RHP (MLB No. 85)
Signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Cabrera had a long-awaited breakout last year, recording a 2.23 ERA, .190 opponent average and 116 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings while advancing to Double-A at age 21. His main weapon is a 93-97 mph fastball that reaches triple digits and also stands out for its heavy life and the downhill plane he creates with his 6-foot-4 frame.
Mets: Matt Allan, RHP
The Mets went nearly four times above slot value to sign Allan last summer, inking the high-ceiling prep hurler for $2.5 million after they selected him in the third round. The ultra-projectable 18-year-old righty’s fastball already touches 97 mph on a regular basis and he maintains that velocity deep into starts. He adeptly drives the ball down in the zone but can also pitch up with his fastball, showing good command of the pitch both in and out of the strike zone.
Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
A physical presence on the mound at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, Rutledge generates big-time velocity that accurately reflects his size. The 2019 first-rounder pitches at 94-97 mph with a fastball that reaches 99, and he has the ability to carry that premium velocity into the late innings. But while his heater has riding life at the top of the strike zone and sink toward the bottom, its movement isn't as consistent as its velocity.
Phillies: Spencer Howard, RHP (MLB No. 34)
While he missed time in 2019 with a shoulder issue, Howard certainly showed no ill effects once he got back, reaching Double-A and looking like one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the Arizona Fall League last fall. He was up to 99 mph during his AFL stint and sat easily in the mid-90s. The pitch has a ton of life and he elevates it up in the zone to miss bats on a consistent basis.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Drew Rasmussen, RHP
After undergoing a pair of Tommy John surgeries while at Oregon State, Rasmussen made his highly anticipated pro debut last summer and immediately showcased powerful stuff, including a fastball which sat in the mid-to-upper 90s with riding life. His feel for controlling three pitches gives him a chance to start long term, but it would surprise no one if the 24-year-old were to ride his 70-grade heater up to a big league bullpen role in 2020.
Cardinals: Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Acquired from Tampa Bay in the 2018 Tommy Pham trade, Cabrera has seen his velocity improve as he’s tacked on strength to his wiry-athletic frame. Though he pitched to mixed results with St. Louis last season in his first big league exposure -- 4.87 ERA and 19/11 K/BB in 20 1/3 innings -- Cabrera’s average fastball velocity of 96.5 mph was the third-best mark among all left-handed pitchers.
Cubs: Brailyn Marquez, LHP (MLB No. 68)
The hardest-throwing lefty starter in the Minors, Marquez operates at 96-98 mph, regularly crosses into triple-digit territory and tops out at 102. The Dominican received the largest bonus ($600,000) given to a southpaw on the international amateur market in 2015 and finished strong last year, logging a 1.17 ERA, .445 opponent OPS and a 48/8 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings in his last seven starts between two Class A levels.
Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (MLB No. 53)
It will be a while before we get to see Greene’s 80-grade fastball again, as he is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Rehab has gone well and he should return to action at some point in 2020, and there’s every hope to see the easy velocity Greene has displayed since high school. It’s a fastball that was regularly in the 97-102 mph range and he throws it with a very easy and repeatable delivery.
Pirates: Blake Cederlind, RHP
Once upon a time, Cederlind was a starter, but a move to the bullpen in 2018 has really paid off. A step up in fastball command allowed the right-hander to pitch across three levels (and the AFL) in 2019. Cederlind is still largely a one-pitch guy, but lucky for him it’s a nasty pitch that not only hits triple digits regularly, but also features a lot of sink to get ground-ball outs.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Ryne Nelson, RHP
Arizona nabbed Nelson in the second round last summer after he finished fourth in NCAA Division I with an average of 14.4 strikeouts-per-nine as an Oregon junior. An impressive athlete who also played the infield during his first two college seasons, he combines long levers with a loose, quick arm to generate easy plus-plus velocity in the form of an explosive fastball that sits in the upper-90s with life.
Dodgers: Brusdar Graterol, RHP (MLB No. 83)
Signed for $150,000 out of Venezuela by the Twins in 2014, Graterol overcame Tommy John surgery in 2016 and a shoulder impingement last year to make his big league debut in September. He averaged 99 mph and maxed out at 102 mph with his heavy sinker while relieving with Minnesota, and he also sits in the upper 90s and maintains his velocity while starting. The Red Sox initially targeted him in a three-team Mookie Betts/David Price trade before balking at his medical reports, and he wound up with the Dodgers as part of the Kenta Maeda deal.
Giants: Melvin Adon, RHP
Adon sat at 95-98 mph as a starter and now deals at 97-100 since becoming a full-time reliever last year, peaking at 102 mph. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $50,000 at the relatively old age of 20 in 2015, he compiled a 4.72 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
Padres: Luis Patiño, RHP (MLB No. 27)
Patiño’s velocity has improved in lockstep with his physical gains, and he operated with a mid-90s fastball while touching 99 mph in 2019 while reaching Double-A. The 20-year-old’s lightning-quick arm gives his heater explosive late life, and he’s able to impart natural cutting action without it detracting from his velocity.
Rockies: Riley Pint, RHP
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Pint’s career has kind of gone sideways since he was drafted as he’s had to deal with injuries and terrible command issues. Still, he hasn’t lost any of the high-octane stuff that made him such a hot commodity coming out of the Kansas high school ranks. He still runs his fastball up to 97-101 mph on a regular basis; now it’s just a question if he can find a way to land it in the strike zone with any semblance of consistency.