Topps Top 100: Who Has The Best Pitch Among The Top 100 Pitchers?

Image credit: Nate Pearson (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Each week, Baseball America and Topps/Bowman are partnering to bring you a commemorative Top 100 Prospects card set. You can also enter to win a free one here

In conjunction, each week our staff discusses one topic pertaining to the Top 100. This week’s question? Of all the pitchers in the Top 100, who has the most devastating pitch in their arsenal?

JJ Cooper: RHP Nate Pearson’s fastball has exceptional velocity—he sat at 97 mph last year, can regularly get to 100 mph and touched 102 at times. But what makes it so hard to catch up to is his ability to mix in three other quality pitches. Hitters have to look fastball with Pearson because if they don’t, they’re not catching up to it. But they also always have to in the back of their mind worry about his extremely hard slider, his very usable changeup and a slower curve. If Pearson just reared back and threw fastballs, the pitch is effective enough to blow a lot of hitters away, especially when he climbs the ladder, but it’s his ability to really pitch and mix four pitches that makes his fastball especially devastating.

Josh Norris: For this question, I’ll take Twins RHP Jhoan Duran’s “splinker.” For the uninitiated, the pitch is 50 percent splitter, 50 percent sinker and 100 percent nasty. The man himself explained the pitch’s genesis last summer after a start in the Florida State League. “I was trying to learn a sinker,” Duran said. “But the sinker was doing the same thing as my four-seam, so I changed the grip a little bit, which allowed me to throw the type of pitch that I’m throwing now.” The splinker, combined with the rest of his arsenal—a four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball—helped establish him as one of the best arms in a loaded Twins’ system. His 136 strikeouts were the most in the organization by a pitcher in the minors, and a good portion of his success can be attributed to a pitch that defies definition.

Matt Eddy: This is a celebration of a pitch type rather than an individual prospect’s best pitch. The curveball is the most aesthetically pleasing pitch to me, and in the right hands it becomes a neutralizing weapon that can be thrown to batters on either side of the plate. The curve also sits in a lower velocity register than other pitches, which creates discomfort for batters because it is well outside of the slider and changeup velocity band. With all that in mind, I tip my cap to Top 100 Prospects with 60-grade curveballs: righthanders Matt Manning, Forrest Whitley, Grayson Rodriguez, Mitch Keller and Brusdar Graterol; and lefthanders Matthew Liberatore, D.L. Hall, Nick Lodolo, Shane McClanahan and Adrian Morejon.

Ben Badler: Going off the 20-80 scale, it’s probably the fastball from Blue Jays RHP Nate Pearson. I don’t see a minor league pitcher with an 80-grade offspeed pitch, but there are several who have an 80 fastball. A lot of them are bullpen arms, but Pearson has the ability to hold that fastball as a starter, sitting in the upper 90s, touching 104 mph at his peak in the Arizona Fall League in 2018 and riding through the zone with explosive movement. I’ll give an honorable mention, though, to the Cubs’ Brailyn Marquez, who can pump 102 mph from the left side and sits in the upper 90s as a starter.

Kyle Glaser: I might be going a little off the board here, but give me RHP Tony Gonsolin’s split-changeup. It’s a true 70-grade pitch that batters know is coming and still can’t do a thing about it. It comes in hard like a splitter, fades like a changeup and he commands it exceptionally to make it virtually unhittable. How unhittable? According to Statcast, major league batters hit just .182/.224/.250 against Gonsolin’s split-change last year with a 39 percent swing-and-miss rate. As he moves into his first full season, expect the legend of Gonsolin’s split-change to grow as more and more major league batters experience it.

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