You might already know this, but we love nasty pitches here at Pitcher List. They’re dope. Hundreds of thousands of pitches are thrown every season, and it is our duty to bring you the nastiest of them all. To get you ready for the 2020 season, we’ve collected some of the best pitches in each division for your viewing pleasure. Some that we’ve chosen are obvious inclusions that you’ve likely seen here many times before, while others may surprise you. We’ve handpicked three pitchers from each team and have broken it down into the following format:
The Mainstay: A guy who’s been around awhile, generally a starter, who you’ve likely seen in the Nastiest Pitches section before.
The Reliever: Could be a closer, could be a middle reliever, doesn’t really matter. You may recognize the name and the pitch.
The Under-the-Radar Guy: Could be a starter, could be a reliever. This guy may have one really good pitch while the rest are terrible, or a pitch that has improved year-over-year that is worth mentioning.
With that said, let’s wrap up our Nastiest Pitches Division Previews with the AL and NL East!
Gerrit Cole’s Fastball
Gerrit Cole moved to another level after his trade from the Pirates to the Astros by abandoning his Two-seam fastball and using his Four-seam fastball up in the zone to change the eye level of hitters. Any of Cole’s other offerings are worthy of showcase, but his fastball is a big part of what made him one of the few true aces in the game. The Yankees hope Cole can maintain his 2018 and 2019 levels in The Bronx Check out what else makes his arsenal awesome here.
Tommy Kahnle’s Changeup
Tommy Kahnle has an excellent fastball that he throws with above-average velocity, but there are plenty of relievers who throw hard fastballs. Kahnle makes his living with a changeup he regularly throws 90-91 MPH with great arm action that makes the ball fade away from lefty hitters. If Zach Britton gets into one of his command struggles with his sinker, then Kahnle may end up closing a few games for the Yankees with Aroldis Chapman recuperating from the coronavirus.
Jonathan Loaisiga’s Curveball
Loaisiga’s great stuff is only matched by his extensive injury history. This curveball has seemingly slider-like lateral movement before dropping right on the outside black. So for as long as he can stay healthy Loaisiga will be in the all-important longman role in this abbreviated season. He could end up vulturing some wins coming in for starters who don’t make it through five innings.
Nathan Eovaldi’s Cutter
It was difficult to find a Red Sox starter who I expect to regularly end up in Nastiest Pitches during the season. With Chris Sale on the mend and Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from coronavirus, it’s slim pickings in Boston. Eovaldi has added a cutter over the last couple of years to keep hitters off his straight-as-an-arrow fastball. With Eovaldi’s velocity, the cutter is a nasty addition to his repertoire even if the pitch doesn’t move a ton.
Brandon Workman’s Knuckle-Curveball
Workman is one of the best pitchers in the majors at avoiding hard contact. He’s in the 100th percentile in xSLG (via baseballsavant) because his fastball is hard to barrel up and his knuckle-curveball is virtually unhittable. Workman also generates lots of swings and misses down in the zone with his breaking ball.
Matthew Barnes’ Curveball
Barnes is a similar pitcher to Workman. He has a high-velocity fastball and uses his breaking ball to finish hitters. Barnes just throws a standard curveball instead of Workman’s spike curve.
Blake Snell’s Curveball
I watched a bunch of Snell curveballs to finish hitters trying to find the perfect one for this preview and I noticed anecdotally that Snell was able to get hitters to chase his curveball seemingly at will. Hitters in two-strike counts beware because it’s really hard to lay off Snell’s curve. If Snell can stay healthy he has a good shot to be in the AL Cy Young race again.
Jose Alvarado’s Two-seam Fastball
Alvarado has my favorite two-seam fastball in baseball. The velocity pushes triple digits and it’s easy to see on Tampa’s beautiful camera angle the late fade of the pitch away from righties. If Alvarado can get his BB/9 closer to three this year he can jump to another level.
Chaz Roe’s Slider
Chaz Roe is far from the best pitcher in a loaded Rays bullpen. Roe won’t be finishing any games with Alvarado, Diego Castillo, and Nick Anderson in the back of the bullpen. However, he has the nastiest pitch on the team, and maybe in the whole majors. Roe’s slider is a fan favorite whenever it’s featured. It’s easy to see why with the whiffle ball break he gets on the pitch. Ridiculous.
Hyun-Jin Ryu’s Cutter
Ryu is far from a Nastiest Pitches mainstay. He doesn’t throw very hard and gets hitters out by changing speeds and with his pinpoint command. Ryu coaxes hitters into swinging at tantalizing pitches just out of the zone and freezes hitters with pitches on the black. This pitch is an uncommon swing and miss for Ryu but shows his ability to spot it. The Jays hope Ryu can carry the rotation this year.
Ken Giles‘ Fastball
Giles has had a volatile career with periods of ineffectiveness littering his already commendable career. Giles throws extremely hard and knows how to use a high fastball to change hitter’s eye levels and miss bats. I commend Giles for his ability to persevere and fight through his failures.
Trent Thornton’s Slider
Thornton is an under-the-radar starter with the potential to be a good one if he can find a pitch to get lefties out. Even if he never finds that pitch, Thornton will still get righties out with his slide piece. I can’t help but wonder whether Thornton ends up a high leverage reliever in the long run.
John Means‘ Changeup
Means is the lone bright spot in the Orioles rotation and because Orioles fans can’t have nice things he’s now hurt to start the season. Means has very good command and his fastball velocity had played up in camp before his injury. Means’ changeup is mesmerizing because he throws it with great arm action that keeps hitters guessing. I hope he can make it back sooner rather than later to help the Orioles pitching staff avoid setting some infamous records.
Hunter Harvey’s Changeup
Unfortunately, the other pitcher to take note of on the Orioles’ staff is also dealing with an injury to start the season. Harvey’s move to the bullpen last year was effective and he’s primed to take over the closer role if Mychal Givens is moved. Hopefully, Harvey can get back to 100 percent quickly and use his big fastball and hard change to get hitters out.
Alex Cobb’s Splitter
Cobb’s journeyman career has brought him to Baltimore and while he is not an effective pitcher most of the time he still has his signature splitter to finish hitters. Cobb’s splitter got a whiff 32% of the time in 2019, so hitters still are fooled by the late movement. Cobb’s problem is that when hitters do make contact the ball tends to go a long way. So I will enjoy the occasional Cobb splitter while never trusting him for my fantasy team ever. Maybe in a deep AL-only league.
Max Fried’s Curveball
Fried’s second-half surge in 2019 has fantasy owners hoping he can repeat that performance for all of 2020. Fried has the potential to leapfrog Mike Soroka and establish himself as the ace of a young team ready to start making some noise in the playoffs. Fried’s curveball is a pretty one and the camera angle in Cobb County gives a great view of the pitch as it nestles on the outside corner.
Mark Melancon’s Cutter
Some of my earliest memories as a baseball fan are of Mark Melancon as an esteemed Yankees prospect who would take over for Mariano Rivera on his retirement. That fairy tale didn’t work out, but Melancon has still had a very nice career as a very good but not great high leverage reliever. Melancon still primarily uses a cutter as he did back on the Trenton Thunder, and when his command is on point he can flummox hitters with the pitch. When Mark Melancon retires I’ll officially be old.
Touki Toussaint’s Splitter
Toussaint is still building himself up after contracting the coronavirus, which is unfortunate because the Braves seem ready to throw tandem starters to start the year because of their abundance of pitching. Toussaint may eventually end up in that mix but he’s starting behind the eight ball. Toussaint impressed me last year with his splitter. When he is on top of his game the split has sharp lateral movement as well as vertical drop and is hard to lay off.
Jacob deGrom’s Slider
Jacob deGrom is already deservedly appreciated for his elite performance, but I think his nastiness would be appreciated even more if the Mets’ camera angle didn’t rob viewers of a full view of it. He throws his slider with elite velocity and while it doesn’t look to have a ton of movement it’s hard to anticipate when it comes in at 93 mph. The back scare this week was troubling, but he’s on track to start opening day and build towards his third-straight Cy Young.
Dellin Betances‘ Knuckle-Curveball
Betances had a terrible 2019 beset by injuries that cost him the chance at a big payday in free agency. Betances signed a one year “prove it” deal with the Mets for 2020 and the hope is he can get back to his pre-2019 form. However, Betances has historically been a very slow starter who takes time to build up his velocity. It’s one outing, but in his exhibition game appearance last week against the Yankees he was only getting up to about 92-93 MPH. In the shortened season, the Mets and fantasy owners won’t have time to let him work out the kinks for a full month. Betances’ bread and butter is his knuckle-curve, but lower fastball velocity gives hitters more time to react and allows them to sit on the knuckle-curve without fear of being late on the fastball.
Seth Lugo’s Curveball
Lugo is similar to Loaisiga in that he is primed to collect some wins pitching for more than one inning in the middle of games when starters are pulled before they can go through the order a third time. Lugo was effective in that role and many others in 2019, and seems ready to help the Mets fight for a playoff spot.
Aaron Nola’s Two-seam Fastball
Aaron Nola’s put away pitch is a deadly curveball that makes hitters buckle, but his favorite pitch of mine is his two-seam fastball. Nola has great command of the pitch, especially the front-door version to lefties. Juan Soto thinks the pitch might hit him before it breaks and finishes right on the black in this example. It’s fun to see that undeniable flinch from a hitter.
Nick Pivetta’s Knuckle-Curveball
Pivetta had been a starter previously, but last year’s move to the bullpen seems to be the right place for him. Pivetta struggled to find a pitch to get lefties out and is now able to let his magnificent breaking ball loose in the bullpen without having to go through the order a couple more times. Pivetta is a sleeper to pick up a bunch of holds this year and is on my radar in any league that values middle relievers. Hector Neris’ inconsistency may also open a role for Pivetta to close games eventually.
Robert Stock’s Fastball
Stock isn’t on any fantasy radars, but he’s on my radar for Nastiest Pitches because he throws so hard. The former catcher has a big fastball that generates swings and misses by itself. The issue with Stock has mainly been health, as is common for former position players, and I hope the Driveline product can put it all together this year and help the Phillies bullpen, even after starting it on the taxi squad.
Max Scherzer’s Changeup
Scherzer is as intense as they come, and that’s saying something for the old school culture of baseball. All that energy coming at you as a hitter and then he pulls the string and the pitch coming in fades away from your barrel. My worry for Scherzer this year is his intensity in a shortened season leads to an injury, but while he’s pitching I know he’ll give everything he has, including his money changeup.
Tanner Rainey’s Slider
Rainey is far from the best pitcher in the Nats bullpen, but he may have the best stuff. The problem is Rainey often has no idea where his electric pitches are going. His slider is elite and makes me wish I had a magic pitching coach potion to fix his control. For now, I’ll just enjoy the random ridiculous slider from Rainey and hope for more.
Patrick Corbin’s Slider
It seems weird to say, but I think Corbin flies under the radar in DC and deserves more attention than he gets at the moment. I guess it’s easy to fall into the shadows when Scherzer and Strasburg are in front of you. But let’s appreciate Patrick Corbin’s unicorn slider and the way he is able to bury the pitch inside whether in the zone or out of it.
Jose Urena’s Two-seam Fastball
Urena is a tantalizing lottery ticket with sharp stuff, but also a propensity to lose his mechanics and control. When Urena is clicking his fastball is one of my favorites, with velocity and movement that reminds me of Edwin Diaz. Here, Urena is able to spot this pitch on the black and he’s very happy about it, as he should be.
Ryne Stanek’s Splitter
Stanek was part of the seemingly endless Rays bullpen last year and the surplus in Tampa allowed Stanek to make his way to Miami. Stanek throws hard and mixes in a good splitter and slider. His three pitches make me wonder why he’s not starting. Stanek has an opportunity in Miami to show he can be a high leverage reliever for a better team moving forward and may end up on the trading block if he does.
Caleb Smith’s Slider
Smith’s pitches aren’t necessarily aesthetically nasty but, as a favorite of our fearless leader Nick Pollack, I thought I’d include the sleeper in this preview. Smith uses his fastball up in the zone and is able to let his high spin rate help him get hitters out. Smith is able to spot his fastball up, both in and out of the strike zone, to keep hitters uncomfortable. He also has this short, little slider that he is able to command as well. Smith and Pablo Lopez are two Marlins starters who have a high potential and the chance to pitch near the top of the rotation for a playoff team. Smith, especially.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)