“Throw him the cheese! Throw him the high, stinky Limburger!”
That’s Henry Rowengartner’s line from Rookie of the Year. Of course, pitching is more of an art than simply throwing hard. But sometimes – and especially in an age where we’re seeing more velo than ever – sometimes it’s just aesthetically pleasing to see a hurler who can dominate with ol' numero uno.
With that in mind, these are the best fastballs from each of the 30 farm systems:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 7)
Rodriguez can make a case for being baseball's best pitching prospect, in part because he commands a mid-90s fastball than can reach triple digits and features late life. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 Draft as a Texas high schooler, he logged a 2.20 ERA, .178 opponent average and a 97/21 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 Triple-A innings, though he also missed time with a lat strain.
Red Sox: Luis Perales, RHP (No. 13)
Perales hit 95 mph with his heater a month after signing for $75,000 out of Venezuela in 2019, and he currently operates in the mid-90s and tops out at 99 with riding action up in the zone. He impressed in his U.S. debut, fashioning a 1.77 ERA, .163 opponent average and 50 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings between Rookie ball and Single-A.
Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP (No. 16)
Acquired from the Twins in a March 2018 trade for Jake Cave, Gil didn't allow a run in his first three big league starts in August 2021 but struggled afterward before having Tommy John surgery last May. When he was fully healthy, his fastball stood out not only for its velocity (averaging 96 mph, reaching 100) but also its high spin rates and carry and the extension in his delivery that allowed it to get on hitters quickly.
Rays: Taj Bradley, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 20)
Bradley certainly has the heat with a 94-96 mph fastball, and he’s touched as high as 98.1 mph (via Statcast) already this spring, proving that his velo bump over the last two seasons is here to stay. But the 21-year-old right-hander doesn’t just stand out through the radar gun. Using an athletic delivery, Tampa Bay’s top prospect shows impressive fastball command and can typically spot the ball where he wants to all quadrants of the zone, cementing his chances to be at least a mid-rotaton starter.
Blue Jays: Yosver Zulueta, RHP (No. 3)
The gas has always been there for the 25-year-old right-hander, and we finally got to see it on Minor League fields last season after Zulueta dealt with Tommy John and a torn ACL earlier in his career. The heater flirts with triple-digits when healthy and has been in the 95-97 mph range in front of Statcast this spring. The Jays insist on continuing to try the right-hander in a starting role, but the velo could play up even more if and when he makes the full-time move to the ‘pen.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Daniel Espino, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 16)
Espino featured the best heater in the 2019 Draft, in which he went 24th overall as a Georgia high schooler, and owns the best fastball on our Top 100 Prospects list four years later. He deals at 95-98 mph and tops out at 103 with a four-seamer with nasty armside run, and he can use it up in the zone with carry or lower in the zone with downhill plane. He has averaged 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro, but worked just 18 1/3 frames last year because of knee and shoulder issues and is currently sidelined with a muscle strain and capsule tear in his shoulder.
Tigers: Elvis Alvarado, RHP (No. 25)
Alvarado played one year as an outfielder in the Nationals system before converting to the mound full-time in 2018. Three years (and a move to the Mariners) later, the Tigers picked him in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft based on the hope they could squeeze something out of his fastball. It’s worked so far. Alvarado has touched 98.4 this spring and maxed out at 100.8 mph at Single-A last season. The 24-year-old reliever climbed three levels in ’22 and will return to the upper Minors in his second campaign in the Detroit system.
Royals: Steven Cruz, RHP (No. 29)
Kansas City acquired the hulking 6-foot-7 hurler in an offseason deal for Michael A. Taylor, and he instantly became the top flamethrower in the Royals' Minor League system. Cruz’s missile comes in at 96-100 mph, and its ride up in the zone helps him further blow it by hitters, as proved by his 72 strikeouts in 56 Double-A innings last season. It’s Cruz’s only above-average pitch, and further control concerns limit his ceiling to a potential setup man instead of a true closer.
Twins: Connor Prielipp, LHP (No. 5)
Prielipp was a contender for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 Draft before he had Tommy John surgery in May 2021, and he didn't pitch in a game last year prior to the Twins signing him for an overall slot $1,825,000 in the second round. His wipeout slider is his best pitch, and he sets it up with a 92-95 mph heater that plays better than its velocity thanks to his deception and ability to move it around the strike zone.
White Sox: Franklin German, RHP (No. 27)
Traded by both the Yankees and the Red Sox (for righty pitching prospect Theo Denlinger last month), German has seen his fastball go from the low 90s as a college starter at North Florida to parking at 96-98 mph and peaking at 100 since Boston made him a full-time reliever in late 2021. He recorded a 2.72 ERA, .155 opponent average and 64 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before getting tagged for four runs in four frames in his big league debut.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Ben Joyce, RHP (No. 11)
After missing all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Joyce went viral last spring at Tennessee when his fastball hit 103 mph in his second appearance, was clocked at 105.5 mph in May and averaged 101 throughout the spring. A third-round pick in July, he went straight to Double-A and posted a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 13 innings, and he has spun four scoreless outings in big league camp this spring.
Astros: Miguel Ulloa, RHP (No. 12)
Signed for just $75,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2021, Ullola reminds club officials of Cristian Javier at a similar stage of their careers because of his ability to dominate hitters with his heater alone. Working at 93-95 mph and reaching 98 with a flat approach angle and tremendous carry, he notched a 3.25 ERA, .157 opponent average and 120 strikeouts in 72 Single-A innings. His rate of 15.0 whiffs per nine innings topped all Minor Leaguers who pitched at least as many frames.
Athletics: Luis Medina, RHP (No. 21)
Part of the Frankie Montas/Lou Trivino trade with the Yankees last August, Medina has one of the most electric arms in the Minors but little track record of harnessing it. His fastball sits at 95-98 mph and reaches 103 with natural cut, and he also can flash a hammer curveball and a well above-average changeup, but he got rocked for a 5.24 ERA while striking out 107 in 92 2/3 Double-A innings
Mariners: Bryce Miller, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 98)
A 2021 fourth-rounder, Miller was a starter for just the last of his three seasons at Texas A&M but excelled in that role during his first full pro season, logging a 3.16 ERA with a .195 opponent average and 163 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings while advancing to Double-A. His heater sits at 94-96 mph and touches 100, and his flat approach angle and late life allow him to throw it by hitters in the strike zone.
Rangers: Emiliano Teodo, RHP (No. 21)
Teodo has emerged as the best prospect in the Rangers' 2019-20 international class despite signing out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 at the relatively advanced age of 18 years and 11 months. His fastball parked at 95-98 mph and climbed to 103 with late hop during his full-season debut last year, when he recorded a 3.09 ERA, .171 average and 115 strikeouts in 84 1/3 Single-A innings.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Victor Vodnik, RHP (No. 11)
Don’t judge a hard-throwing hurler by his size. Vodnik stands at just 6-foot, but the 23-year-old right-hander has touched 99.7 mph this spring and was averaging around 96 mph on his heater in 2022. Injuries have pushed the 2018 14th-rounder to the bullpen on a full-time basis, but he’s a good fit out there as it should allow him to let the fastball fly a bit more. Pair that with a plus changeup, and Vodnik could help the Atlanta relief corps in short order.
Marlins: Eury Pérez, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 13)
Pérez has become one of the game's top mound prospects since signing for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, and his heater is one of the reasons why. He operates at 94-97 mph and maxes out at 100 with quality shape, running action, induced vertical break and command. He compiled a 4.08 ERA, .223 opponent average and 106/25 K/BB ratio in 75 Double-A innings -- at age 19. He did miss two months with a lat strain.
Mets: Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP (No. 22)
The 6-foot-7 right-hander has become a bit of a social-media sensation this spring. His sinker has topped out at 101.9 mph on Statcast. As if that wasn’t enough, he throws it with close to 7 feet of extension, putting himself even more right on top of hitters. As if those two weren’t enough, the pitch comes with about 20 inches of armside horizontal break, thus zooming to the hurler’s right and becoming even tougher to pick up. Unfortunately, all that movement and velo can be difficult to command consistently, and the right-hander, who has a long injury history, is currently shelved with a stress reaction in his right elbow.
Phillies: Andrew Baker, RHP (No. 17)
There are many good heaters in this system with Andrew Painter and Griff McGarry receiving 70 grades for the pitch. But Baker’s fastball is a notch above even theirs. The 2021 11th-rounder averaged 98.5 mph on the fastball last season at High-A and Double-A and touched as high as 102. Perhaps most astonishingly, he improved his control as his first full campaign wore on, and that combination of velo and accuracy could get him to the Philly bullpen by the second half.
Nationals: Jarlin Susana, RHP (No. 6)
The January 2022 signing was becoming a complex-level sensation when he was sitting 98-99 mph during his first campaign in the Padres system. That elite velo made him a high-ceiling addition as part of the Juan Soto blockbuster in August, and he brought the same flames to the Nats system, touching 103 with Single-A Fredericksburg shortly after the deal. Susana only turns 19 next Thursday, so the Nats will have to maintain a plan that keeps him bringing that same heat while keeping him healthy as he climbs toward the capital.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: Daniel Palencia, RHP (No. 14)
The Cubs asked for Palencia in their 2021 Andrew Chafin trade with the Athletics because of his fastball, which sits at 96-98 mph, peaks at 102 and carries by hitters at the top of the strike zone. He flashes some nasty sliders and knuckle-curves as well, and he put up a 3.94 ERA, .204 opponent average and 98 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings in High-A.
Reds: Ricky Karcher, RHP (No. 29)
Cincinnati optioned Karcher to Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday, but it isn’t hard to imagine he could be up with the big club within the first month or two. The 6-foot-4 right-hander sat around 96-98 mph with the fastball last season at Triple-A and Double-A and reached triple-digits a few times. In pairing that with his slider, the 2017 13th-rounder struck out 88 in 56 2/3 innings, a K rate that helped earn him a 40-man spot in November.
Brewers: Abner Uribe, RHP (No. 12)
Multiple knee injuries have been the only thing holding back Uribe from reaching the Milwaukee bullpen in recent seasons. The 6-foot-3 right-hander missed all of the 2022 regular season with a torn left meniscus, only to come back and sit 98-99 mph with his sinker in the Arizona Fall League. So long as he’s on the mound, he’s always a threat to reach 100+, and the Brewers know it’s just a waiting game (potentially a short one) before they can take Uribe’s heater to The Show.
Pirates: Luis Ortiz, RHP (No. 8)
After showing steady velocity gains in the Minors, Ortiz arrived in the Majors last year with Pittsburgh and proceeded to average 98.4 mph on his four-seamer, putting him in the 98th percentile for fastball velocity at the game’s top level. He touched 99.7 mph as a Dominican Republic reliever in the WBC this spring, and the movement on the pitch can make it an absolute buzzsaw, especially against right-handers who struggle most against Ortiz.
Cardinals: Guillermo Zuñiga, RHP (No. 30)
Entering Thursday, only two pitchers had reached 102 mph in the World Baseball Classic. One is all-planet talent Shohei Ohtani. The other is Zuñiga, who did so on March 11 in a relief appearance for Colombia vs. Mexico. (He earned the win and struck out four over two scoreless innings in the 5-4, 10-frame victory). The 6-foot-5 right-hander more typically sits in the 96-99 mph range, and despite some serious control concerns, it’s that velo that earned him a Major League contract with the Cardinals this spring, despite his lack of experience above Double-A.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Justin Martinez, RHP (No. 21)
Since Arizona plays its spring home games at Salt River Fields, we get Statcast data on Martinez’s home appearances. Entering Thursday, the right-hander has thrown 36 pitches in front of the machines. Seventeen of them were 100 mph or above. That’ll play. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was more typically around 96-99 mph in the Arizona Fall League last year, as he was making up for time lost to Tommy John surgery, so the continued velo is notable. Now on the 40-man, Martinez should be a relief candidate for the D-backs this summer.
Rockies: Jaden Hill, RHP (No. 9)
We’ve only seen Hill’s velo in flashes considering he threw only 51 1/3 innings at LSU and was returning from Tommy John surgery for most of 2022. However, the 2021 second-rounder fastball looked like its old self upon his return back in the mid-90s. Colorado is working with the 6-foot-4 right-hander on adding more movement, but the building blocks are there to make it at least a plus pitch the more he throws it.
Dodgers: Nick Frasso, RHP (No. 11)
The Dodgers may have pulled off a steal by grabbing Frasso from the Blue Jays in the Mitch White trade last August. Coming back from June 2021 elbow surgery, he devastated hitters with his heater last year, averaging 96 mph and touching 100 with armside run and deceptive extension in his delivery. He fashioned a 1.83 ERA, .171 opponent average and a 76/17 K/BB ratio in 54 innings while rising from Single-A to Double-A.
Padres: Angel Felipe, RHP (No. 30)
Having toiled through the lower levels of the Rays system for six seasons, Felipe popped in 2022 with his special velocity. He maxed out at 101.2 mph at Triple-A in September and had 71 of the 72 highest velos recorded by Statcast among El Paso pitchers in ’22, despite only joining the Chihuahuas in mid-August. He’s on the 40-man roster now, which was an easy call considering he would have been a Rule 5 pick if left available over the winter.
Giants: Cole Waites, RHP (No. 21)
An 18th-round pick out of NCAA Division II West Alabama in 2019, Waites pitched just 30 2/3 innings in his first three years as a pro before riding his fastball from Single-A to the Majors last season. He operates at 95-98 mph and reaches 100 with carry and boring action in on right-handers. His 16.4 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second among Minor League relievers (minimum 40 innings) in 2022 before he claimed Mookie Betts as his first K victim in the big leagues.