Best Sliders Among 2023 Top 100 Prospects
No pitch has defined the development of pitch mixes throughout baseball like the slider. Slider usage continues to climb year after year in all levels of baseball, and for good reason. No other pitch combines the movement of a breaking ball with pitch velocity quite like a slider. Many pitchers with plus sliders have begun to use the pitch interchangeably with their fastball—a concept that would have been alien 10-15 years ago.
Within the slider genre there’s a variety of pitch types. The classic gyro slider is a tight, typically harder breaking ball whose defining characteristic is the red dot it creates as it travels to the plate. Sweeping sliders have taken the game by storm, with horizontal breaking frisbees becoming more and more common. Finally, there’s the cutter hybrid sliders, which are typically harder than gyro or sweeper sliders. There’s also the classic slurve, a harder, two-plane breaking ball that shares characteristics of both a curveball and slider. In other words, there’s a variety of slider types and each movement pattern has its own defining shape.
Today, we’ll discuss the best sliders thrown by Top 100 Prospects during the 2022 minor league season. All data used in this article was sourced from team contacts and includes each pitcher’s full minor league sample.
Key Slider Metrics
Velocity: This one is simple—the harder you throw the better.
Horizontal Break: Simply how much the pitch moves horizontally. When discussing sliders, all horizontal break is toward the pitcher's glove side.
Whiff Rate: The rate of total swings against a pitch that results in a swinging strike or a whiff. This is the purest way to determine how well a given pitch misses bats.
Chase Rate: The rate of total swings against a pitch that induces chases or swings out of the zone.
Called + Swinging Strikes Rate (CSW%): The number of called strikes and swinging strikes added together and then divided by the total number of pitches.
Weighted On Base Average (wOBA): Weighted On Base Average is a variation of on-base percentage that weighs each method of getting on base differently. Think of it like this; a walk is worth less than a double and a double is worth less than a home run. This is an excellent way to view a pitcher’s ability to drive outs.
Expected Weighted On Base On Contact xwOBAcon: xwOBAcon is useful when analyzing pitches for a very simple reason. It eliminates strikeouts and walks and only measures the quality of balls in play. It also excludes foul balls unless they result in an out, which is a useful inclusion when looking at a pitch's quality. While more complex in its construction, xwOBAcon allows us to remove things we can measure with other metrics (Ex: whiffs or called strikes, etc.) and isolate the quality of contact against the pitch.
Exclusions: As we did in the best fastball article, we will exclude the Guardians' Daniel Espino and the Rays' Shane Baz due to a smaller sample size not in line with the rest of the group. We’ll also eliminate both the Mets' Kodai Senga and the Padres' Dylan Lesko as neither has thrown a pitch in front of a ball-tracking device in North American-affiliated baseball.
1) Luis Ortiz, RHP, Pirates
Velocity: 87 mph | BA Stuff+ 123 | Whiff%: 47%
A hard-throwing power righthander, Ortiz struggled to find consistency over the first few months of the 2022 season. As the calendar turned to August it all began to click for Ortiz. Over a seven-start stretch, Ortiz struck out 48 batters to eight walks across 38 innings, pitching to a 3.08 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. This successful run pushed Ortiz to the majors in the final month of the season. Over his first three appearances with the Pirates, Ortiz allowed just two earned runs over 15.2 innings. He showed plus stuff in the big leagues, with a pair of upper-90s fastball variations and a nasty slider.
The key to Ortiz’s success wasn’t just the power in his fastball, it was his ability to consistently go to his slider in any count, using it at times almost interchangeably with his fastball. A high-80s gyroball, Ortiz’s slider has a tight bullet-spin style shape. This allows Ortiz to not only throw it as hard as he does but play it off of his fastball, while locating it in and out of the zone.
Ortiz’s performance with the pitch was strong across the board; the slider ranked fourth in whiff rate among sliders thrown by a Top 100 prospect. What separates Ortiz’s slider is the volume at which he threw it. Ortiz’s slider was thrown over 600 times in 2022, significantly more than the three sliders with higher whiff rates (Ricky Tiedemann, Daniel Espino, Max Meyer) among Top 100 Prospects.
Even more impressive, despite the heavy usage, the pitch had a swing rate of over 50%. It was the only slider thrown by a Top 100 pitcher with a whiff rate above 40%, a chase rate above 40% and a called+swinging strike rate over 40%. Ortiz’s 32% in-zone whiff rate was also among the highest of any slider on the list.
2) Max Meyer, RHP, Marlins
Velocity: 90 mph | BA Stuff+ 121 | Whiff%: 49%
Long before Meyer stepped foot onto a mound in pro ball his slider had a reputation as a nasty upper-80s to low-90s pitch with gyro-spin and bullet-like shape. Meyer debuted with the Marlins in July 2022, making two appearances before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Prior to the injury, Meyer’s slider had performed at elite levels. It had the second-hardest average slider velocity on the Top 100, sitting 90 mph on average. Meyer generated the highest whiff rate of any slider thrown 300 times or more, while also holding opposing batters to the lowest wOBA on the list. Hitters consistently swung through Meyer’s slider; his 49% whiff rate came with a swing rate of 56%, the second highest on the list.
Like Luis Ortiz’s slider, batters knew it was coming and tried to hit it but just as often whiffed as they made contact. This translated to a chase rate above 40% and a called+swinging strike rate of 38%. A strong combination of pure stuff and performance makes Meyer’s slider special. With a healthy return from Tommy John surgery, Meyer’s premier pitch should return to its previous form.
3) Bobby Miller, RHP, Dodgers
Velocity: 88 mph | BA Stuff+ 135 | Whiff%: 38%
As will likely be discussed later this week, perhaps no pitcher has the pure stuff of Bobby Miller across their arsenal. This belief in Miller’s premium stuff has led to aggressive rankings throughout the public space despite solid but unspectacular results. With the hardest fastball in the Top 100, Miller’s top-of-the-scale velocity often steals the headlines, but it's his plus-plus slider that might be his best pitch in a standout arsenal.
Miller’s slider sits in the high 80s with around seven to eight inches of horizontal break, giving it an impressive combination of horizontal movement and velocity. Of the 11 sliders thrown by Top 100 pitchers with an average velocity of 85 mph or more, none has as much horizontal break on average as Miller's. In fact only one slider, D.L. Hall’s, was in the same neighborhood of power and horizontal break.
This isn’t just a pretty shape for Miller, it’s an effective one. Miller’s combination of a whiff rate above 35%, a chase rate above 35% and an expected wOBA on contact below .300 stands alone among sliders in the Top 100. Miller's ability to generate grounders at a high rate with his slider is notable—his 62% groundball rate falls squarely into the territory of a heavy groundball driver. With a combination of elite shape and the ability to induce swing-and-miss and groundball contact, Miller’s slider is a true weapon.
4) D.L. Hall, LHP, Orioles
Velocity: 87 mph | BA Stuff+ 135 | Whiff%: 38%
Hall has a truly nasty pitch mix, as we discussed with his elite four-seam fastball yesterday. While his fastball is arguably Hall’s best pitch, his upper-80s slider isn’t far behind it. It’s the highest rated slider thrown by a lefthander on our Top 100 list and the hardest by nearly three mph.
As discussed with Miller, Hall has one of the few combinations of horizontal break and power to rival Miller. Hall sits 86-88 mph with on average seven inches of horizontal break. Unlike Miller’s flatter slider, Hall’s generates some ride, making the shape even harder to barrell. However, hitters did do damage when they did make contact.
Contact did come at a premium, as hitters whiffed against the pitch nearly 40% of the time. His success carried through to the major leagues, as his slider generated whiffs 34.3% of the time per Baseball Savant. While Hall’s command and future role are up in the air, the quality of his slider is not.
5) Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, D-Backs
Velocity: 83 mph | BA Stuff+ 132 | Whiff%: 38%
It was a phenomenal season for Pfaadt, as he handled two of the toughest home parks in affiliated baseball with ease on the way to leading the minor leagues in strikeouts. Pfaadt possesses pristine command of his pitch mix, but shows surgical execution with his fastball and slider combination. Pfaadt’s slider is his go-to out pitch, and was highly effective throughout the season. In fact, Pfaadt’s strike rate of 70% on his slider would be a plus marker even on a fastball.
It’s not just Pfaadt’s command of his slider that translates to success. His pure stuff rates highly on our BA Stuff+ model. Pfaadt’s low-to-mid-80s sweeper generates nearly a foot of horizontal break on average. It’s one of the highest averages of horizontal break on any slider thrown by a Top 100 prospect. On sliders that averaged 82 mph or harder, Pfaadt’s horizontal break topped the list, with no other pitch coming within an inch of his average.
Pfaadt missed bats in and out of the zone consistently. His chase rate of 42% rates second on the Top 100, behind just Max Meyer, and shows his ability to force hitters into poor swing decisions.