Tool Time: Top Ten Fastballs For Relievers

When Healthy, Hoover's Heater Is Unreal

If there is one enormous strength of the Yankee farm system, it is their vast collection of power arms. With high ceilings, pure heat and projectability, we rank the top ten fastballs among the relief pitching prospects in the Yankee farm system.

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10) Josh Schmidt: Because of his deception, movement, and how well he sets it up, Schmidt makes his way onto this list even though he does not have the plus velocity. He works in the 88-91 MPH range, reaching 93 MPH on occasion. However, the impressive part about his heater is not the velocity, but the movement. With sink and run created by his low arm slot, Schmidt can be a true chore to make contact with when hitters are looking for his devastating slider.

9) Mike Gardner: While Mike Gardner may not be the first guy you think of in terms of power bullpen arms, he tends to sneak up on batters with his velocity. He works between 88-91 MPH, but once in a while, he can reach 94 MPH when he throws his four-seamer. A solid secondary repertoire and a deceptive delivery that allows him to throw multiple pitches from different arm angles makes his fastball appear quicker than it actually is.

8) Mike Wagner: One of the big sleepers on the 2005 Staten Island squad, Mike Wagner impressed many with his excellent fastball/breaking ball combination. At times, Wagner was clocked as high as 94 MPH on the radar gun but his velocity was also rather inconsistent. If he can prove that he can duplicate that plus heat, he could make significant jump on this list.

7) Matt Smith: This lefty is perhaps the Yankees' most big league ready relief pitching prospect. With the ability to dominate left-handed batters, Smith has proven that he can work his good fastball inside, setting up his outstanding slider down and away. He is not overpowering at 90-92 MPH, but considering how well he locates his heater, it deserves credit. When he is locating inside on lefties, it is a highly effective setup pitch.

6) Jeff Kennard: Kennard, a big, strong, right-handed hurler, uses leg drive and a lot of strength in producing good heat on his fastball. Working in the 90-93 MPH range, Jeff does have the ability to blow it by a hitter upstairs when he needs to. He would be higher on the list if he had more movement, but he mostly throws a four-seam fastball.

5) J. Brent Cox: Drafted in the 2nd round out of the University of Texas, J. Brent Cox never made a name for himself with the velocity of his fastball, but rather on the combination of decent heat and great movement down in the strike zone. Cox works comfortably in the 89-92 MPH range with his good sinking fastball. But, when he wants to sacrifice movement, he can get it as high as 94 MPH. However, his fastball is better when he lets the natural sinking action do the work for him.

4) Cory Stuart: Stuart's pure velocity may not stack up with some of the other relievers on this list, but his movement makes his fastball possibly a plus pitch. He throws 90-92 MPH but his sink and run is enough to make it a "swing and miss" or prolific ground ball pitch. When he is working down in the strike zone, his sinking fastball alone makes him nearly impossible to hit.

3) T.J. Beam: Beam, since his college days, has always been known for having a tremendous fastball. And, to this day, that hasn't changed. The towering righty throws a fastball that ranges between 92-95 MPH and reaches 96 MPH on occasion. Not to mention, he has also added good movement to his heater and now is able to be aggressive with it as he moves up through the higher ranks of the minor leagues.

2) Jesse Hoover: Like our number one on this list, the hard throwing Hoover is also attempting a comeback from an injury. But, his fastball was just that electrifying in his first taste of professional baseball with Staten Island in 2004 that he still deserved this spot on the list. Jesse flashed a heater that touched 97 MPH in 2004, and the Yankees are optimistic that he will bring that fastball back with him despite a serious back injury that held him out of action for the entire 2005 season. When he's right, his fastball is a tremendous weapon. The only question is if his health will hold up.

1) Ferdin Tejeda: Although he went down with Tommy John surgery just in his first season on the mound, there's no doubt that Tejeda has an electric arm. In 2005, he showed a fastball that could touch 97 MPH, sitting comfortably in the 93-95 MPH range. A former shortstop known for a great arm but little pop in his bat, the Yankees sent him to the mound in spring training, possibly finding a diamond in the rough. Word is that Tejeda is expected to bounce back well from his surgery and should return to his mid-90's fastball form.

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