As we gear up for the 2022 season, the Nastiest Pitches team will be highlighting some of the filthiest pitches we see during Spring Training. If you see something you think should be included here, be sure to tweet @PitcherList to let us know. Or, if you’re a PL+ member and part of our Discord, shout it out in the #nasty-pitches channel, where we host giveaways during the season. If you’re not already a PL+ member, you’re missing out!
Hayden Wesneski’s Slider
If you’ve never heard of Wesneski before, this pitch alone should put him on your radar. A sixth-round pick in 2019 by the Yankees, Wesneski advanced all the way to AAA last season with a 3.92 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 94 innings, primarily using his excellent breaking balls. While Statcast classified this pitch as a curveball, its movement profile more resembles that of a slider, and Wesneski himself confirmed it on Twitter. This pitch has a top-tier sweep, breaking 20 inches towards batter Greg Allen as the ball flew towards the plate. During his three innings of work today, Wesneski threw a sinker with 20 inches of arm-side run and another slider with 22 inches of glove-side break, creating a ridiculous horizontal separation of 42 inches, preventing any batter from squaring up his stuff.
Adam Wainwright’s Changeup
Even 17 seasons into a major league career and at the ripe age of 40, Wainwright’s deadly stuff is still more than nasty enough for this list. While many know Wainwright for his beautiful rainbow curveball that he throws over a third of the time, today his seldom-used changeup was the most visually appealing. This change-piece, immaculately located off the outer edge of the plate, left Astros minor leaguer Justin Dirden with no choice but to whiff, and whiff hard. In Wainwright’s two-inning tune-up outing today, he recorded five swinging strikes and a 33% CSW.
Justin Verlander’s Curveball
After undergoing Tommy John Surgery and missing two full seasons, Verlander returned to the Astros this spring ready to bounce back and prove he still has the generational stuff we’ve admired for over almost two decades. Today, he threw two innings while striking out two batters and not allowing a hit. More impressive, though, was the raw quality of his stuff. He averaged 94.8 mph on his fastball and topped out at 96, alleviating concerns about his diminished arm strength coming off the injury. As can be seen from this pitch, his breaking balls have also returned in full form. This curveball had nearly five feet of long-form drop, absolutely fooling Nolan Arenado into a big miss.
Logan Webb’s Slider
In 2021, Webb transformed himself from an unheralded prospect into a legitimate star, performing at a high level throughout the season capped off by two gems in the playoffs where he allowed just one run across 14 innings of work while striking out 17 batters. He throws a sinker, slider, and changeup, each of which is characterized by elite horizontal movement. His slider is his best pitch, and here he gets an ugly swing out of catcher Yan Gomes despite the pitch bouncing in the dirt.
Chris Stratton’s Fastball
In terms of pure feel for spin, perhaps no one on the planet is as gifted as Stratton. Among hurlers who pitched a full 2021 season, Stratton is the only one who averaged over 2600 rpm on his fastball and 3000 rpm on his curveball. Despite only clocking in at 93 miles per hour, this fastball spun at 2580 rpm, dropping far less on its way to the plate than a ball without spin. The hitter, Joey Gallo, was clearly fooled by this illusion, swinging right under the pitch for the strikeout.
Ethan Small’s Changeup
Striking out Trea Turner is no easy task, but Small made it look easy despite having never thrown a major league pitch before. In 2021, the former Brewers first-round pick dominated the minor leagues to the tune of a 1.98 ERA while striking out nearly 30% of all batters faced, and scouts and analysts alike consider his changeup to be among the best in baseball. His combination of fastball data traits, the elite cambio, and above-average command of a three-pitch mix makes him look like a very solid future starter who could be in the majors as soon as this season.
Joe Gatto’s Curveball
Not to be confused with the former Impractical Jokers star, Gatto was a 2014 second-round pick by the Angels who the Phillies signed to a minor league deal during the offseason. Gatto is a reliever with a good fastball and snappy curveball (as you can see in this pitch) but has struggled with control issues throughout his entire career. However, last season in the Rangers’ system, he walked fewer than three batters per nine innings. You might see him and his nasty breaker debut in the majors this year for Philadelphia, assuming he doesn’t return to the Impractical Jokers set.
David McKay’s Cutter
McKay (not related to Rays’ two-way player Brendan McKay) has had a rocky start to his major league career, struggling in 27 innings in 2019 and 2020 with the Tigers and Mariners. After not playing baseball at all in 2021, McKay signed a minor league contract with the Rays and threw one of the nastiest pitches of the day during his first appearance. This cutter was beautifully located down and inside to hitter Izzy Wilson, with plenty of late movement for the ball to dart right under Wilson’s bat.
Kevin Ginkel’s Slider
Ginkel has some of the filthiest raw stuff in the majors. Hitters have swung and missed at over 20 percent of sliders that Ginkel has thrown at them, well above the league average of 17.1 percent for sliders. He’s had command issues for most of his career, but this pitch was located perfectly on the corner of the zone to strike out Kyle Holder.
Brandon Williamson’s Slider
We’ll close this piece with another exciting prospect to look out for in the years to come. Williamson just arrived in Cincinnati after being the main return piece in the trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Mariners. Drafted in 2019 from the two-headed monster TCU rotation that included him and now-teammate Nick Lodolo, Williamson has done nothing but throw gas in pro ball, striking out over 37 percent of batters faced in 2021 and getting whiffs galore with an elite four-pitch mix. This pitch was a well-commanded backfoot slider to Yu Chang that was practically placed directly in the catcher’s glove.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns of Twitter)