Thursday, March 7, 2013

Uncle Charlie: Examining the best curveballs in the Dodgers' farm system

Uncle Charlie. No. 2. The Hammer. Public Enemy No. 1. The Deuce. No matter what you call it, the curveball is probably the most "famous" pitch in all of baseball. It's usually the first pitch taught to young players, even if it is hell on their elbows, and was the topic of a joke from the best baseball movie ever made: "Major League."

The curveball, however, appears to be less common among major leaguers -- at least in the Dodgers' system. Sure, Clayton Kershaw still has one of the best curves in the game and Chad Billingsley still throws it rather frequently.

When thrown well, it's still an effective offering (which can be said about any pitch). However, pitchers seem to be leaning toward the slider and the cut fastball.

The Dodgers have more than a few pitchers in the system who throw potentially plus curveballs, including three of my Top 11 prospects for 2013. It's actually refreshing to see.

Just a funny note: all the players on this list are starting pitchers. The curveball definitely appears to be more prevalent in starters.

Previous entries in this series

This list is reserved for Dodger pitching prospects who feature 55 or better curveballs.

Zachary Bird
- Bird isn't the only 2012 draftee on this list, but his ceiling could be the highest of the three. He pairs his low-90s fastball with a classic mid-70s 12-to-6 curveball. It grades out as a plus pitch down the road. It'll be interesting to see how his curveball fares in the thin air of Ogden.

Onelki Garcia
- Garcia was awarded the best curveball in the system by Baseball America, and it isn't hard to see why. His upper-70s offering almost acts as a slider. It's a true out pitch and could be his ticket to a long Major League career. He made some hitters look foolish in his three-inning Double-A appearance, thanks in part to the curveball. He'll show how good the curveball can be in the Southern League.

Garrett Gould
- I rated Gould as having the system's best curveball. Right now, it's his best pitch. It has a true 12-to-6 break and sits in the 75-78 MPH range. He was able to get a lot of swing-throughs in his first year in the California League, and he'll go back there to refine his stuff.

Zach Lee
- Lee has a nice four-pitch repertoire, including a potentially plus curveball. He's flashed it at times, which has helped him earn praise from scouts and prospectors. It'll be interesting to see how his curveball develops going forward. It could end up being one of his best pitches, or he could ditch it all together.

Rob Rasmussen
-Rasmussen's curveball has helped him remain as a starting pitcher despite his small frame. It's his best pitch and pairs it with an average fastball (which plays up as a lefty). Rasmussen will join a crowded rotation in Chattanooga until he proves he can't handle it.

Ross Stripling
- Stripling is the third 2012 on this list and could end up being a fifth-round steal. With his increased fastball velocity, his curveball is even more important. It's his swing-and-miss pitch, though, his changeup (as he admits) could end up being a better pitch down the road.

One pitcher absent from this list is Chris Withrow. He used to boast the best curveball in the system, but he's all but scrapped it since moving to the bullpen full-time. It'll be interesting to see if he tries to bring it back if his slider doesn't work out.

1 comment:

  1. Dustin , nice job.
    One observation of Gould, it seems he does not take much of a leg extension to max velocity?
    Certainly has a lot of movement going on throwing which could lead to inconsistent command.
    Your thoughts?