The weeks leading up to Spring Training are known as 'List Season.' If you follow baseball in the Twitterverse, you've seen them. The top 100 Prospects, the Top 10 at each position, the best lineups, and the best pitching staffs always show up on my timeline. The lists go on and on and on. The latest list is from MLB.com and dives into the nastiest pitches on each team. MLB reporter David Adler chose Luis Castillo’s changeup in his latest article.
"The Mariners ace throws one of the best wipeout changeups in baseball, averaging 88.4 mph with 17.3 inches of horizontal break, making it the perfect complement to his two-seamer, which averages 96.9 mph with 17.8 inches of horizontal break in the same direction."- David Adler, MLB Reporter
While the pitch is of the nasty variety, with the average against below the Mendoza Line (.196), a few other starters should warrant consideration in Adler’s exercise.
George Kirby’s Two-Seamer
The former first-round pick and budding ace is well-known for his remarkable control (1.5 BB/9). However, George Kirby decided to tinker with a two-seamer after seeing veteran Robbie Ray break out the pitch in May to get hitters off the four-seam fastball. According to Baseball Savant, the pitch has 16.2 inches of horizontal break, which allows Kirby to front door tough lefthanded batters.
Additionally, the pitch comes in with elite spin (2236), resulting in the highest put-away percentage (26%) of all Kirby's offerings. Scouts compare Kirby’s two-seamer to another control artist, former Braves SP and Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Andres Munoz's Slider
The 2022 season started off poorly for the young flamethrower Andres Munoz. He struggled with getting hitters off the triple-digit fastball, giving up critical homers to Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton on the first road trip. Fortunately, Mariners' Pitching Coach, Pete Woodward, suggested Munoz throw a harder slider, and the results were spectacular.
The 23-year-old reliever elevated the slider velocity from 82 to 89 MPH resulting in a .126 batting average against. Lastly, look no further than the 50.8% whiff rate to justify Munoz's slider's nastiness.
Matt Brash’s Curveball
Much is made about Matt Brash’s offspeed pitches, particularly his slider. However, I want to shed some light on the least used pitch in his arsenal. Brash threw the curveball 237 times last year, resulting in a minuscule .208 BAA and a whiff rate of 28%. While those statistics back up the praise scouts are giving him, the spin rate sets this pitch apart from your typical curve.
Brash hurls his knuckle curve to the plate with average revolutions of around 2972, contributing to his elite movement (17.7 inches). The fact that Brash has not one but two pitches that could make the nasty list shows the value he holds in that pen.
Other offerings could make the list, such as Paul Sewald’s unhittable elevated four-seam fastball (.144 BAA) or the average 40 inches of the vertical break in Penn Murfee’s slider. It’s hard to choose who has the nastiest pitch on the staff, and if you ask Manager Scott Servais, he'd probably tell you that's a good problem to have.