Image credit: Hunter Greene (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
If you like velocity, this past weekend was an enjoyable weekend of baseball watching.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, Hunter Greene averaged 101 mph with his fastball, maxing out at 102.6 (which rounds up to 103 if you are so inclined).
That same night, Shohei Ohtani threw the first 101 mph pitch of his MLB career in a start against Seattle. In the same game, Ohtani also had a 106.8 mph double as the Angels designated hitter.
That led to this Tweet:
Because I’m someone who loves velocity and I can’t get a question like this out of my head without answering it, that got me to thinking. It’s true that Ohtani is the only MLB player to throw 101 and have a 106 mph hit in the same game. As baseball’s only true two-way big leaguer, he’s the only player who gets a regular opportunity to do so.
But that doesn’t mean he’s the only one who could do it.
The 106 mph exit velocity is not a particularly high bar to clear. Most MLB hitters can hit a ball 106 mph or harder when they square the ball up particularly well. There are a number of pitchers who have done so in games before the universal DH arrived. If you want an argument against the universal DH, it’s that it’s kept pitchers from even trying to match Ohtani’s feat. This year, according to Baseball Savant, 472 different MLB hitters have a hit of 106 mph or better.
But to hit a ball 106 mph and get a hit while also throwing 101 mph? Well, that’s going to immediately ensure this will be a very small club of potential candidates. But it may not be as small a club as you would expect.
Baseball Savant shows 211 pitchers who have thrown 101 mph or harder in an MLB game since 2008. There are 31 pitchers who have done it in 2022 alone. There are 13 pitchers who have touched 102 mph this year and five who have touched 103. In 2008-2021, there were only 11 pitchers who ever touched 103.
So we are not dealing with the days where there were only one or two pitchers who could touch 101 mph regularly.
In fact, the best candidate to do so in the same game was the other 101 mph starting pitcher from Saturday night. When Greene was in high school, he was a power-hitting shortstop in addition to being the hardest-throwing pitcher in the 2017 draft class. He showed plus-plus raw power in home run derby events at high school showcases and made seven starts at designated hitter in his first pro season before the Reds scrapped any idea of him being a two-way player.
Masyn Winn, the Cardinals’ shortstop prospect, is another player capable of doing both in the same game. Power is not Winn’s calling card, but he has hit balls 106-plus mph at his best. Could he throw 101 mph? Well, he had a 100.5 mph throw on an assist he made as a shortstop in the Futures Game. Throwing from the infield normally sees lower top-end velocities than pitchers see off the mound. Besides Winn, no other infielder has ever been recorded as throwing over 100 mph in a game.
Like Greene, Winn was drafted as a two-way player. He actually made one appearance as a pitcher in 2021, but this year he focused full-time on being a shortstop.
When the Pirates drafted Bubba Chandler in 2021, they talked about developing him as a two-way player. He was allowed to DH some this summer, and he showed he could get a 106 mph hit. Can he throw 101 mph? So far, the answer is no. But in his first full pro season, Chandler did max out at 99.4 mph for Low-A Bradenton. It’s not outlandish to think that one day he could touch 101.
In the 2022 draft, Connecticut’s Reggie Crawford was the 30th pick of the first round. He was announced as a two-way player who will play first base and pitch as a pro. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, so he’s yet to play in a game. Before his injury, he was clocked at 99 mph. So with some further development, there’s a chance he could do both.
That’s four other candidates, but it’s highly unlikely any of them will ever get a chance to equal Ohtani’s feat. Successfully developing a player as a pitcher and a hitter has proven to be impossible for MLB teams so far, even if Ohtani managed to do so in Japan.
Michael Lorenzen came to pro ball as an outfielder who also pitched. He’s managed to have multiple hits of 106 mph or better in games and he’s had four 100 mph pitches during his MLB career, even if he’s yet to touch 101. But the Reds were never able to figure out how to develop him to do both at the same time. Lorenzen doesn’t throw as hard these days, partly because he’s now working as a starting pitcher.
Tanner Dodson was a two-way player for the Rays early in his MiLB career, and he had a high-90s fastball. But he struggled with injuries and eventually had to focus exclusively on pitching. Rays lefthander/first baseman Brendan McKay was never a threat to touch 100 mph off the mound, but he was a two-way player all the way to the majors. But McKay has struggled to come back from a significant shoulder injury.
We’re not finished with potential candidates. Rays reliever Javy Guerra actually made it to the majors first as a shortstop (and had a 102.8 mph single in an MLB game). Since he’s moved to the mound, he’s topped 101 mph on multiple occasions. He is less of a candidate since he got a chance to be a position player in the majors and moved to the mound because of his struggles at the plate, but he is definitely capable of hitting a ball 106 mph and throwing a 101 mph pitch.
Speaking of converted position players, Brewers reliever Lucas Erceg topped out at Triple-A as a hitter, but he had plus-plus raw power. Now as a reliever, he’s capable of touching 100 mph although he hasn’t hit 101 yet.
But we have saved the best for last. There actually is a major leaguer who has thrown pitches at 101 mph and has a 106 mph exit velocity on a hit. Jacob deGrom, who was a shortstop for much of his college career at Stetson, had a 106 mph exit velocity on a single in 2015. He also has 47 101-plus mph pitches in his career. DeGrom never did both in one game, but he has demonstrated in a major league game that he can pull off both sides of Ohtani’s feat.
So maybe there is another current pro player who could equal Ohtani’s feat of throwing 101 mph and getting a hit with a 106-plus mph exit velocity in the same game, but he is unlikely to ever get the chance. The fact that Ohtani has managed to do both so well while staying healthy is a truly remarkable accomplishment.