Tool Time: Top Ten Changeups

Matt DeSalvo still has the best changeup

Perhaps no other organization puts more stock in the development of changeups as high as the Yankees. While they added more power arms to the farm last season, a few new pitchers have come in with great changeups as well. Here are the Top Ten Changeups among pitching prospects in the Yankees farm system.

Honorable Mention

Chase Wright: The fact that Wright, who won the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year award in 2006 on the strength of his plus changeup, doesn't crack the Top Ten is a credit to the depth of big-time changeups in the Yankees farm system. It's a pitch he can throw in any count and in any situation and he pounds the lower-half of the strike zone with it.

Christian Garcia: What is perhaps the most frustrating part of Garcia's Tommy John surgery this offseason was he had just developed his changeup into a plus pitch, getting to the point where it was nearly as devastating a strikeout pitch as his hammer curveball. The good news, with his curveball going to be put on the shelf for a good portion of his rehab, the changeup could come back better than ever upon his return.

Brett Smith will throw his changeup in fastballs counts as often as anybody. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
Brett Smith: One of the Yankee hurlers who gets dismissed too quickly by his critics because he doesn't throw a mid-90's fastball, Smith's changeup is among the best in the farm system. In fact, with the confidence to locate it at will, Smitty will drop a 78-80 MPH changeup over the plate in fastball counts with regularity. While he is built to pitch to contact, he does get his strikeouts with his plus changeup.

Bryan Villalona: Signed back in 2001, Villalona is often an afterthought by fans because he toiled in the short-season leagues for four years, including the Gulf Coast League for three of them. His rather slow progression through the minor leagues has helped disguise the fact he has one of the better changeups in the organization and it is one of the reasons why, despite the Yankees stockpiling young power arms, he still gets a ton of respect from the Yankees.

Phil Coke: Coke cut his ERA from 2005 by over two full runs in 2006, his best season as a professional by far, thanks in large part to the development of his now plus changeup. He didn't even begin throwing a changeup until his junior year of college and he gets knuckle-ball type of movement on his changeup where it dances around the plate with good command. It's one of the reasons why he's knocking on the door of the Top 50 Prospects.

Top Ten Changeups

10) Dellin Betances: Like Coke, Betances went from a non-existent changeup to a plus pitch, albeit Betances did it in just one short season. With the great movement he's able to generate with it actually makes it one of the better changeups in the organization right now but lacks the overall command of it for it to rank higher on this list. At just 18 years old however, and considering how quickly he has turned his changeup around, there's no telling how far it will develop.

9) Daniel McCutchen: Not only does McCutchen hit the mid-90's with his fastball and throw a great spike-curveball, but he has one of the more advanced changeups in the farm system. His split-changeup gets tremendous sink as it dives down and in to right-handed batters, which is a big reason why Yankees officials believe he could move through the minor leagues quicker than most.

Zach McAllister was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 MLB Draft on the strength of his advanced changeup. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Zach McAllister: What made McAllister such an intriguing selection in the third round of the draft last season was the possession of a great changeup coming out of high school, a rarity indeed. His advanced changeup not only serves as his primary swing-and-miss strikeout pitch, but he commands it so well that he gets a ton of called strikes with it as well with good downward action.

7) Tyler Clippard: The fact that Clippard's 'anytime, any count' plus changeup, a pitch he can consistently throw to location in the 78-81 MPH range, doesn't rank among the top five speaks volumes to the collection of arms in the Yankees farm system. Along with his curveball, it serves as one of his primary strikeout pitches and it's a big reason why he has led his leagues in strikeouts each of the last two seasons.

6) Edwar Ramirez: It might come as a shock to some to see the former Angels' prospect on this list after just a half of a season in the Yankees organization. However, throwing a changeup described by Yankees Pitching Coordinator Nardi Contreras as a "Bugs Bunny-like changeup", the movement Ramirez generates on his change is something you would see in a video game and it's the reason why he posted a 1.17 ERA in 19 appearances for the Tampa Yankees last season. Even with that type of movement, he has incredible command of his plus changeup, really his only main pitch.

Garrett Patterson has incredible command of a devasting changeup. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Ian Kennedy: Kennedy has a complete arsenal with four quality big league pitches but his plus changeup stands above the rest as his main strikeout pitch. In fact, it is the reason that, despite throwing fastballs mostly in the low-90's that he had been a prolific strikeout pitcher in college at USC and it is one of the main reasons the Yankees expect him to move rapidly through the minor leagues, especially since he can locate it at will.

4) Garrett Patterson: Known primarily for his blazing fastball from the left side and his long list of injuries that have plagued his career, people often overlook the fact that he has one of the best changeups around. Don't let his high walk totals cloud the fact that he has incredible command of a plus changeup that sits in the 72-74 MPH range. While he does have problems locating his mid-to-upper 90's heat, the 20 MPH difference in his changeup with good command just isn't fair on opposing batters.

3) Ferdin Tejeda: Like Patterson, not many people realize Tejeda has an advanced plus changeup simply because he is a power pitcher who hasn't been on the field long enough to showcase his best offspeed offering. As impressive as his 94-97 MPH fastball and plus slider are, it's Tejeda's plus changeup and the command that he has of it that has many Yankees insiders believing he will be pitching in the big leagues sooner than people realize.

2) Jeff Marquez: Marquez came into the organization out of college already armed with a plus changeup because of the incredible movement he was able to generate with it. And while it has remained one of the best changeups over that time, the fact is he has learned to command it even better in his three years with the Yankees. Until the development of his curveball last season, it served as his primary strikeout pitch and with his changeup giving opposing batters the appearance that it's a breaking ball with the movement he gets, batters might have an even harder time picking it up now that he has a true curveball.

1) Matthew DeSalvo: Like Patterson, DeSalvo has had some command issues in the past but it isn't with his changeup. While he will miss the zone with his fastball at times, DeSalvo can spot his wicked changeup at any time. Even in an arsenal as deep as his, his changeup is his primary strikeout pitch. He not only gets a bunch of swing-and-miss strikeouts with his changeup, but he gets nearly as many called strikeouts and it's the reason why he was averaging a strikeout per inning in his career until last season.

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