Tool Time: Top Ten Curveballs

Christian Garcia's Curveball Is Nasty

Stocked with young arms, the Yankee organization has put a strong emphasis on their young pitchers learning a serviceable curveball. And, there are several promising pitchers in the farm system that are now armed with plus curveballs. In this edition of Tool Time, we rank the top ten curveballs among pitching prospects in the Yankee farm system.

10) Matthew DeSalvo - The break and spin Matt Desalvo gets on his breaking ball may not stack up to some of the guys above him on this list, but the way he varies speeds and location with it earns him his spot. Matt has shown that he isn't afraid to throw his curveball in any count and he never lets betters get a good feel for what his breaking ball may look like. Sometimes he takes a little off, and other times, he puts a little extra on it.

9) Jeff Marquez - Still getting the feel for his breaking ball, Marquez is often hit or miss in terms of his breaking ball's effectiveness. He has his days where it looks like a potential plus pitch, but he also often struggles with his command of it. If he continues to work hard improving this pitch, it has shown the tight spin and late break to potentially be a plus pitch.

8) Steven White - Although White likes to attack the zone with his live, moving fastball, he is at his best when he is locating and mixing in his curveball effectively. With good, late break, White produces strikeouts when hitters begin looking for his fastball. It has shown improvement but right now, it has the look of a serviceable big league breaking ball.

7) Alan Horne - Horne does not have an electrifying curveball like some of the pitchers above him on this list, but what he does have is a refined, college groomed breaking ball. He locates is very well and it is, as of now, an average to slightly above average secondary pitch. But, with some tweaking from the Yankee coaching staff, Horne's hard breaking ball could become a valuable weapon.

6) Lance Pendleton - When the Yankees selected Lance Pendleton in the 4th round of the 2005 draft, they were highly impressed with the former Rice standout's fastball/curveball combination. He's a raw product considering he spent most of his college days as a position player but his curveball shows tremendous promise as a future plus pitch.

5) Jesse Hoover - He has been on the shelf since last Spring Training with major back problems, but it is hard to forget that devastating fastball, curveball combination that Hoover displayed in Staten Island back in 2004. Boasting a hard, hammer curveball, Jesse had the perfect combination for a strikeout pitch. If he returns to the mound with a healthy back, it will be interesting to see his curveball once again.

4) Jason Stephens - Stephens has always intrigued the Yankee organization with his projectability and advanced feel for his breaking ball. He's a very intelligent pitcher and uses his big, slow breaking ball wisely. It shows huge potential but the Yankees would like to see him add a little more velocity so hitters have less time to pick up the spin. He has shown that he can spin it very well but he just needs to keep it low in the zone and put a little more heat on it. If he can do that, we'll be looking at his curveball becoming a plus pitch in 2006.

3) Tyler Clippard - Unlike many high school draft picks, Tyler Clippard had an advanced curveball right out of the gate when he was selected by the Yankees back in 2003. And, most importantly, his slow hook has gotten better and better as his career moves along. On the other hand, T-Clip does leave his slow curveball up in the zone at times where it can get hammered. But, when its low in the zone, Clippard's breaking ball is a legit plus pitch.

2) Phil Hughes - Very few would have guessed that Hughes, who coming out of high school had no curveball in his arsenal whatsoever, would be able to not only learn to throw one, but throw a breaking ball that is a true plus pitch. With a class 12-6 hammer break, Hughes has now shown that he has a strikeout pitch to go with his plus fastball. The rapid pace that he has picked up this pitch is a true testament to Hughes' pitching aptitude. Over time, his curveball is only going to improve more.

1) Christian Garcia - Since being drafted out of high school, Christian Garcia has dazzled everyone who caught a glimpse of his breaking ball. With a big, sharp, late break, Christian's curveball is as special as they come and is already a plus pitch. His only problem is that he sometimes fall in love with it, when he should use his excellent fastball more often. Once he completely learns to utilize this truly amazing pitch, he could be baffling hitters with it for years to come.

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