Tool Time: Top Ten Curveballs

Betances has a wicked curveball

The Yankees not only saw three of their better curveballs ascend to the higher levels, but they've seen some incredible curveballs enter the organization at the lower levels recently too. Here are the Top Ten Curveballs in the Yankee farm system.

Honorable Mention

Brett Gerritse: The fastball velocity is merely average at this point and both his delivery and changeup remain a work in progress, but there is no denying that Gerritse already has one of the better curveballs at the lower minor league levels for the Yankees. The 20-year old just needs to start proving it outside of the rookie levels to make the leap into the Top Ten category.

Matt Richardson: There are a lot of similarities between Gerritse and Richardson; both have average big league fastball velocity, both struggle with consistent command of their changeups, and both have knockout curveballs that are legitimate plus big league offerings. And like Gerritse, Richardson really needs to make that leap into the long-season leagues for people to really start noticing it.

Top Ten Curveballs

10) Adam Warren: There's a strong argument to be made that either Gerritse or Richardson could slot in here, but Warren's curveball, while not quite the plus pitch the other two possess, has become a more consistent pitch break-wise at the higher minor league levels. He still doesn't command it inside the zone like he would like, but he certainly has the ability to bottom his curve out.

9) David Phelps: Like Warren, Phelps is more known for his slider than his curveball but he has developed his curve into a very good big league pitch over the last year. And just like Warren, while Phelps doesn't command it inside the strike zone as well as he would like, the break on it is not only fantastic, it's consistent. It has become a very good strikeout pitch for him.

IT'S COMING: Encinas will unveil his plus curveball officially in 2011. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Gabe Encinas: Last year's sixth round pick has yet to make his official professional debut. While that means a lot of hard work will be forthcoming trying to iron out his mechanics and improve his overall game, the fact that he's armed with a plus big league curveball already should allow him to have some instant success to help build his confidence foundation going forward. His curve has the potential to lead these rankings someday.

7) Hector Noesi: It is amazing how far Noesi has come with his curveball over the past couple of seasons. Once merely a power arm armed with an inconsistent slurvy breaking pitch, Noesi has developed into a legitimate big league strikeout weapon. And while the command of his fastball can be sketchy up in the zone, he's usually down in the zone with his curve. It's a quality pitch all around.

6) D.J. Mitchell: Like Noesi, Mitchell entered the professional ranks known more for his fastball than anything else and he too has transformed his game over the past two years. Not only does he have a plus changeup to his credit, he also developed his inconsistent slurvy slider from college into a legitimate plus big league pitch. When his strikeout totals are higher than normal in a particular game, it's because his curve is really on.

THE FORGOTTEN MAN: Heredia has lost some prospect luster, but it's not because of his curveball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Jairo Heredia: The pundits are down on Heredia recently and for good reason. The arm strength has not been nearly as good as when he first signed, but it certainly hasn't affected his curveball any. It is a no-doubt plus big league offering and he can command it extremely well. His biggest problem is keeping opposing batters off of his offspeed pitches when they aren't worried about his fastball.

4) Bryan Mitchell: This Mitchell is arguably one of the most underrated prospects in the Yankee organization despite owning one of the best curveballs among some pretty special company in the Yankee organization. The pitch often gets compared to former Yankee prospect Arodys Vizcaino, widely known for having a great curveball too. Frankly his curveball is one of the biggest reasons why some baseball people believe he could be a potential big league ace down the road.

3) Manny Banuelos: Scouts are split on Banuelos' curveball. Some believe it's an above average pitch, others believe it's in the plus category. Both sets of critics are correct, it just depends on the time. At worst his curveball is above average when his command is inconsistent, but when he's commanding it at will [which can be often] it's a completely devastating pitch that can get any batter out.

2) Andrew Brackman: Even when Brackman was posting nearly a 6.00 ERA in the South Atlantic League in 2009, it had nothing to do with his terrific curveball. The victim of bad mechanics and fastball command at times, it has been his curveball as a matter of fact that has always allowed him to escape further damage during his development. His knuckle-curveball moves a ton and opposing batters can't really square it up at all, making it a great pitch.

1) Dellin Betances: Like Brackman, Betances' struggles at times over the years have had absolutely nothing to do with his curveball. Even when his head tilt in his delivery would affect his fastball command, he could still power up a knuckle-curveball that dove and danced over the plate for both a swing-and-miss pitch and one he could locate for called strikes. And when his fastball command is on, opposing batters can't sit on the curve and it makes his curveball nearly unhittable.

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