10 Breakout Sliders You Need To Know Ahead Of The 2024 Season


Image credit: John McMillon (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Heavy breaking ball usage has only grown more common in recent years to the point that it’s almost cliche to point out. While a good fastball is important, having one or two go-to breaking balls is now essential. As the saying goes, “spin to win.”

With the season creeping up on us, let’s take a look at 10 breaking balls that performed among the best in affiliated baseball in 2023. The majority of these pitches fall into the slider territory, which is a far-reaching term with a variety of subcategories. All of the pitches listed below met a strict criteria of thresholds regarding in-zone whiff, chase, swing rate, CSW% and run value. 

John McMillon, RHP, Royals: Optioned to the minors late last week, McMillon made his debut for the Royals in 2023, making four appearances. His slider is his primary pitch, as he showed in his brief major league debut. Sitting 85-88 mph with heavy gyro and late cut, McMillon generates whiffs in-zone on 37.8% of swings while generating chase swings 42.5% of the time. McMillon consistently gets batters to swing at his slider while rarely giving up damage (.137 XWOBA) when hitters do make contact. It’s a nasty pitch that plays well off of McMillon’s upper-90s four-seam fastball.

Johzan Oquendo, RHP, Cubs: Drafted out of Leadership Christian Academy HS in Puerto Rico back in 2019, Oquendo successfully navigated two levels of A-ball in 2023 despite very shaky command. At the root of that success is a trio of pitches led by his plus slider. Oquendo’s slider sits 84-86 mph with around seven inches of sweep that plays up due to his arm angle. The slider generates whiffs in-zone at a rate of 40.2% in 2023 with a 35.4% chase rate and a 43.2% CSW%. While Oquendo’s command is shaky, his slider is a weapon.

Emiliano Teodo, RHP, Rangers: After a late-season alteration to his fastball, Teodo saw his prospect status shoot up. While his powerful heater is notable, Teodo’s slider is easily his best pitch. Sitting 86-88 mph with heavy cut and spin rates in the 2900-3000 rpm range, Teodo used the slider more than any pitch in his arsenal, and for good reason. He shows remarkable command of the slider, landing it in-zone more than 50% of the time in 2023 while generating whiffs in the zone on 38.1% of swings. Teodo is adept at generating whiffs in and out of the zone. 

Edgar Portes, RHP, Orioles: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Portes reached High-A in 2023 after an extended stay in Low-A Aberdeen for most of 2022 and 2023. While his production isn’t exactly noteworthy, he did begin to tack on more innings as the season pressed on. He mixes a hoppy low-90s fastball with a low-80s slider and a changeup. The low-80s slider is his primary pitch and his deadliest weapon. It sits 80-83 mph with ride and sweep generating whiffs on 50% of swings while generating chases and whiffs in-zone. At 20 years old, there’s plenty of runway for Portes due to his signature slider. 

Ronan Kopp, LHP, Dodgers: One of my preseason breakout picks for 2023, Kopp is one of the nastiest lefthanders in the minors. His fastball sits 94-96 mph with plus ride while his slider ranks among the elite breaking balls in the minor leagues. The slider sits 85-88 mph with ride and cut and high spin rates in the 2700 rpm neighborhood. Kopp generated whiffs on 59.4% of swings in 2023 while getting chases on 36.2% of swings. It’s a nasty pitch with velocity and movement that hitters rarely can barrel up. 

T.J. Brock, RHP, Blue Jays: A nasty reliever in the Big Ten for Ohio State, Brock has skyrocketed up the Blue Jays minor league ladder on the strength of his slider and fastball combo. His slider sits 88-90 mph with heavy gyro, playing perfectly as the primary pitch, using his high-90s heater to set it up. The slider generates whiffs on 47.6% of swings in-zone while generating chases on 39.7% of swings. Brock is among a crew of Blue Jays in the upper minors with high-leverage bullpen stuff. 

Franyel Diaz, RHP, Mets: The 6-foot-7 righthander debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2023 and performed well, making 12 appearances, 10 starts and striking out 54 batters over 45 innings. With a mediocre fastball at 88-90 mph, Diaz’s slider is his go-to pitch, sitting 81-84 mph with ride and moderate sweep. The pitch overwhelmed DSL competition, generating whiffs in-zone 30% of the time while his 39.3% CSW%, 33.3% chase rate and .220 XWOBA all show the pitch’s quality of performance. His is a name to stash away, as he should come stateside in 2024. 

Osbriel Mogollon, LHP, Brewers: The Brewers always seem to be stashing a couple of talents the public is yet to fully appreciate. Mogollon might be such a treasure, as his slider dominated in the ACL. An undersized lefthander, Mogollon’s slider sits 82-84 mph with heavy spin and gyro. Hitters whiffed on 44.9% of swings in 2023 while chasing on 33.7% of swings. His ability to generate whiffs in and out of the zone bode well despite his lack of power on his fastball. 

Yohanse Morel, RHP, Rangers: Signed by the Nationals in 2017 out of the Dominican Republic, Morel was a throw-in in the Kelvin Herrera trade in 2018 and was then traded to the Rangers for Albert Abreu. In his first full season with the Rangers, Morel experienced a career year, posting a 2.49 ERA with 55 strikeouts over 47 innings for High-A Hickory. His slider was his go-to pitch in 2023, seeing heavy usage particularly when ahead in the count. His slider sits 85-87 mph with heavy gyro and cut, generating a high rate of whiffs in-zone (48.3% IZ-whiff) and chases (42.9% chase rate). Morel’s ability to generate whiffs and chases drove the pitch’s success in 2023. 

Sawyer Gipson-Long, RHP, Tigers: The righthander burst onto the scene late last season, as he made his major league debut on Sept. 10, making four strong starts for the Tigers to end the season. A 2019 sixth-round pick out of Mercer, Gipson-Long was an unheralded prospect entering the season and took a giant step into relevancy late in the year. Gibson-Long’s slider is the most noteworthy of his pitch mix, sitting 82-84 mph with moderate sweep and drop, as well as spin rates in the 2600-2700 rpm range. The slider’s performance in 2023 was heavily based around Gipson-Long’s ability to command the pitch consistently. In 2023, Gipson-Long had a 69.6% strike rate in the slider while generating whiffs at a rate of 47.4%, with an outrageous 41.1% chase rate and a 52.7% swing rate. Long story short, Gipson-Long’s slider fools batters.

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