Tool Time: Top Ten Changeups

Banuelos has a special changeup for his age

The Yankees farm system has taken a huge hit in the changeup category over the last two years - losing pitchers like Jeff Marquez, Ivan Nova, and Daniel McCutchen with plus changeups, and Phil Coke to the big leagues - but yet they still have some impressive changeups in the system. Here are the Top Ten Changeups among pitching prospects in the Yankees farm system.

Honorable Mention

Noel Castillo: Castillo is better known for his plus arm strength, but the fact is he developed an inconsistent changeup with plus potential into a more reliable plus pitch last season. He can command it quite well too, so much so that he barely missed out in breaking into the Top Ten.

Wilkins De La Rosa: Like Castillo, De La Rosa is an older pitcher who is still relatively new to the mound and that has his changeup not nearly as consistent as some of the other pitchers in these rankings. And just like Castillo, he can snap off some great looking changeups for strikeouts. He just needs some more consistency with it to break into the Top Ten, but he's oh-so-close at the current time.

MORE THAN POWER: Marshall doesn't just have the power fastball, his changeup could be special too. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
George Kontos: Kontos has spent the majority of his professional career working on the consistency of his changeup and he certainly accomplished that feat late in the 2008 season. It's not Top Ten quality just yet, but it is definitely a big league quality pitch and enough to make him a four-pitch hurler.

Brett Marshall: The trend continues with Marshall, another young pitcher armed with a changeup that has plus potential but has yet to find the consistency with it to break into the Top Ten. He gets decent fading action, but not nearly the same as others, and the strength of his changeup is more in his command of it.

Mikey O'Brien: O'Brien is the poster boy of what can only be labeled an exciting infusion of young arms from last year's draft class and the rapid development of a non-existent changeup into one with plus potential is the consistent theme amongst them. His command is a little spotty with it and that keeps him on the outside looking in for now, but he will be heard from in this category in the coming years.

Adam Olbrychowski: Olbrychowski's 5.13 ERA with the Charleston Riverdogs last season disguises the fact he owns one of the better changeups. Using his time last season to perfect his curveball and slider was the main culprit for the sub-par numbers, but his changeup is already a quality big league pitch.

Top Ten Changeups

10) Nik Turley: Like fellow draft-mates Marshall and O'Brien, the rapid development of Turley's changeup has been nothing short of spectacular. He not only developed great fading action with it, but by the end of the Instructional League camp he was also showing great command of it. He'll be one to watch in the coming years and his changeup is a big reason why.

9) Jeremy Bleich: Turley has an edge on Bleich in the running action of his changeup and in the end it could be better, but Bleich's superior command of his changeup gives him the edge right now. It's not nearly the same strikeout pitch as his curveball, but he can consistently get outs with it.

NEW, BUT GOOD: Mitchell's changeup is new, but it is already special. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Dellin Betances: It was a tale of two season for Betances in 2008 and his changeup was the biggest reason. Unable to throw it consistently for strikes in the first-half last year, it was like night-and-day in the second-half as he threw it consistently from the same arm-slot as his other pitches, threw it with great running action, and commanded it at will. If he can show the same changeup going forward that he had after the All-Star break last season, he could make a run to the top of these rankings.

7) D.J. Mitchell: Another pitcher drafted last season, another rapidly developing changeup. Mitchell, who has yet to pitch an official minor league game, will start his professional career armed with a pitch he seldom threw in college. He developed his non-existent changeup into a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch and his command of it is uncanny considering how new it is.

6) Zach McAllister: Just like with his slider, McAllister's running action with his changeup isn't quite as impressive as his impeccable command of it [although it is livelier than his slider]. He consistently throws it in the lower-half of the zone, and with his special sinker, it can be devastating to opposing batters. Like McAllister himself, his changeup is as reliable as they come.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Heredia focused mostly on developing his changeup last year. (Photo: Nick Werner/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Jairo Heredia: Armed with a plus curveball entering last season and a changeup that had plus potential, the right-hander spent the better part of his first long-season league further developing his changeup and the results were phenomenal. He can now command it at will, he gets great fading action with it, and frankly, it's better than most older and more experienced pitchers in the organization.

4) Mark Melancon: Considering they both have makeup off the charts and are good friends, it's not surprising that Melancon's changeup made a Heredia-like leap in 2008. Primarly a fastball-curveball pitcher entering the season last year, he quickly turned his changeup into a legitimate big league pitch. Like his plus curveball, he has the confidence to throw it in any situation, including getting the big strikeout with it when needed.

3) Manny Banuelos: It was barely a year ago when Banuelos first signed and the reports started coming in that he was armed with a "sick" changeup. The reports weren't wrong. While the lefty prefers throwing his plus curveball, the fact is his changeup is easily his best pitch. He gets plus run and fading action, he can spot it wherever he needs to, and he can pile up the strikeouts in a hurry with his changeup. A little more confidence to throw it more often is the final ingredient to possibly headline these rankings in the not-so-distant future.

2) Christian Garcia: When the biggest criticism about a particular pitch is that the pitcher falls in love with it and throws it too often, that's a sign of nit-picking. Such is the case with Garcia, whose plus changeup is as reliable as it gets. He too has all the ingredients - great fade, fantastic command, and he can strike out anybody with it.

1) Jonathan Ortiz: He doesn't throw hard, he doesn't have a great breaking pitch, and yet he still struck out 87 batters in just 62 innings with the Charleston Riverdogs last season, thanks in large part to the video game-like running action he gets with his changeup. He doesn't throw nearly as hard, but he is the closest thing to Edwar Ramirez in the farm system right now. His changeup alone is special enough to possibly get him to the big leagues someday.

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