The 50 Hardest Throwers in Baseball

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2012

The 50 Hardest Throwers in Baseball

0 of 50

    Watching a pitcher gear up, reach back and unleash a blazing fastball past a batter can be an incredibly fun thing to watch. There are certain pitchers in the majors who know how to dial up the heat.

    This ranking is based on the average fastball velocity for pitchers from the 2011 season, which was taken from Fangraphs.

    As one might expect, there are a number of relievers on the list. Since they throw less innings, the pitchers have the ability to let their fastballs fly.

50. Justin Verlander

1 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.0 MPH

    The reigning American League Cy Young winner and MVP is one of the hardest throwing starters in baseball.

    Justin Verlander can still throw a fastball past an opposing hitter late in the game. His fastball is just one of the many pitches in his outstanding repertoire that allows him to be so successful.

49. Jonny Venters

2 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.0 MPH

    For the last two years, Jonny Venters has been one of the more dominant relievers in the National League. He finished eighth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting two seasons ago and was an All-Star in 2011.

    Venters' fastball has helped him fool pitchers when he comes out of the bullpen. He has an insane 204 ERA+ for his career.

48. Aaron Crow

3 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.0 MPH

    Aaron Crow was a starter for the Kansas City Royals when he was in the minor leagues, but the team decided to make him a reliever. He made their bullpen for his rookie year in 2011.

    The move seemingly paid off for the Royals, as Crow put together an All-Star season. His great fastball helped him strike out 65 batters in 62 innings.

47. Jonathan Papelbon

4 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.0 MPH

    Jonathan Papelbon was the best closer on the free-agent market this winter. That is why the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to a four-year deal.

    He has been selected to four All-Star Games thus far in his career. There should be a few more in his future.

46. Drew Storen

5 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.0 MPH

    Drew Storen has quickly become one of the better closers in the National League and the Washington Nationals could not be happier.

    One of the reasons why Storen has become so good is because of his fastball. He was able to rack up 43 saves last season.

45. Chad Beck

6 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    Chad Beck reached the major leagues for the first time in his career in 2011. He only faced eight batters during his quick trip to the majors.

    That did not stop Beck from striking out 37.5 percent of the batters he faced. Beck certainly got by because of his fastball.

     

    Photo Credit: MiLB

44. Alexi Ogando

7 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity 95.1 MPH

    Alexi Ogando was able to dial things up and throw a blazing fastball when he was pitching out of the bullpen. That has not changed since he became a starter.

    This season was Ogando's first as a starting pitcher in the majors, and he put together an impressive year. Ogando was selected to the American League All-Star team.

43. Jeff Samardzija

8 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    Jeff Samardzija played both football and baseball in college, and the Chicago Cubs are happy that they were able to get him to become a Major League Baseball player.

    Samardzija has become a big part of the Chicago Cubs bullpen. His powerful fastball has fooled hitters since he reached the majors.

42. Jim Johnson

9 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    For the past four seasons, the Baltimore Orioles have been able to rely on Jim Johnson coming out of their bullpen.

    This season could be the last one that Johnson pitches for the Orioles. He is supposed to become a free agent after the season.

41. Blake Hawksworth

10 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    After spending the first two years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Blake Hawksworth was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2011 season.

    He struggled a bit in Los Angeles, but he was still able to post the best K/9 rate of his career. Hawksworth struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings.

40. Felipe Paulino

11 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    Felipe Paulino split his time with the Colorado Rockies and the Kansas City Royals. He was a starter with the Royals and a reliever with the Rockies.

    Paulino pitched much better during his time with the Royals. He was able to keep up his fastball velocity in both places.

39. Dan Runzler

12 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.1 MPH

    Dan Runzler had a rough year with the San Francisco Giants in 2011, and not even his speedy fastball could save him.

    Runzler finished the year with a 6.26 ERA in 31 appearances. He was in the minors for part of the season.

38. Mitchell Boggs

13 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.2 MPH

    For each of the past three seasons, Mitchell Boggs has posted a 2-3 record. He has improved slightly each year.

    Boggs relies on his fastball when he comes out of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. His career strikeout rate of 6.5 K/9 seems low for someone with such a quick fastball.

37. Tom Wilhelmsen

14 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.2 MPH

    Perseverance pays off, and Tom Wilhelmsen has proven that point. He reached the major leagues for the first time this season at age 27.

    He found success with the Seattle Mariners, and Wilhelmsen pitched well out of the bullpen and was a pleasant surprise for the team.

36. Jim Hoey

15 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.3 MPH

    Prior to the 2011 season, the last time that Jim Hoey pitched in the major leagues was in 2007. He struggled during his first stint in the majors.

    That did not change in Hoey's 26 appearances out of the Minnesota Twins bullpen in 2011. Hoey had a 5.47 ERA on the year.

35. Rex Brothers

16 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.3 MPH

    Rex Brothers had been one of the better prospects in the Colorado Rockies' minor-league system since he was drafted in 2009.

    The Rockies were able to see what he could do in the majors last season. A great fastball was one of the reasons for Brothers' success. He could eventually become the closer in Colorado.

34. Chris Sale

17 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.3 MPH

    Chris Sale has been very successful out of the Chicago White Sox bullpen. He has a career 10.6 K/9 rate, thanks to his great fastball.

    The White Sox are trying to move Sale into their rotation for the 2012 season. There are questions as to whether or not he can handle the new role because of how much he relies on his fastball.

33. Neil Wagner

18 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.3 MPH

    Neil Wagner was called up to join the Oakland Athletics bullpen just before September 1st. He did not get many opportunities to pitch in the majors.

    In fact, Wagner appeared in just six games in slightly more than a month that he spent in the majors. He is a hard thrower, but he was not very successful.

     

    Photo Credit: Scout

32. Sergio Santos

19 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.3 MPH

    The Toronto Blue Jays were impressed with Sergio Santos' performance in 2011. They decided to trade Nestor Molina to the Chicago White Sox for the flamethrower.

    Toronto is hoping Santos can be their closer, both now and in the future. He racked up 30 saves and an impressive 13.1 K/9 rate last season.

31. Rafael Dolis

20 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.4 MPH

    It may seem a bit unfair to include Rafael Dolis on this list considering that he only faced four batters in 2011. However, he was bearing down on them with fastballs the whole time.

    Dolis made one appearance out of the Chicago Cubs bullpen, and he relied on his speedy fastball to retire the hitters he faced.

30. Andrew Cashner

21 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.4 MPH

    Andrew Cashner was one of the Chicago Cubs' top prospects during the past few years. He spent most of 2010 in the majors, but only pitched seven games for the big-league club in 2011.

    Casher was able to turn up the heat with his fastball when he was on the mound. In 2012, he will be doing so for a new team as he was traded to the San Diego Padres.

29. Al Alburquerque

22 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.4 MPH

    In his first year in the major leagues, Al Alburquerque was a key part of the Detroit Tigers bullpen. He had a 1.87 ERA in 41 appearances.

    Hitters were baffled by Alburquerque for most of the season. This led to his impressive 13.9 K/9 rate in 2011.

28. Mike MacDougal

23 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.5 MPH

    After a few rough years, Mike MacDougal was able to return to being a solid reliever during the 2011 season.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers were happy to have him as a part of their bullpen. He posted a 2.05 ERA last season.

27. Fernando Rodney

24 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.5 MPH

    Fernando Rodney is a reliever who had a lot of potential, but has struggled to live up to it for most of his career.

    Rodney uses his fastball as one of his tools to get batters out. He struggled last season and had a 4.50 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP.

26. John Axford

25 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.6 MPH

    One of the reasons the Milwaukee Brewers were able to win their division for the first time in over two decades was because of John Axford's ability to close out games.

    Axford had a 1.95 ERA and led the National League with 46 saves last year. He used his fastball as a weapon to put down batters.

25. Blake Wood

26 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.6 MPH

    The Kansas City Royals had a number of flamethrowers in their bullpen in 2011. One of them was Blake Wood.

    This year was Wood's second in the major leagues and he showed significant improvement from his first season.

24. Juan Abreu

27 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.6 MPH

    Juan Abreu made his first appearance in the major leagues this last season. He pitched in seven games for the Houston Astros.

    If his success in these appearances is any indication of his future abilities, Abreu should have no problem finding a spot in the Astros bullpen. It is a small sample, but Abreu had a 16.2 K/9 rate last year.

23. Matt Moore

28 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.7 MPH

    During his short stint in the majors last season, Matt Moore was able to show why he is one of the top prospects in the game today.

    Moore showed why he has the potential to become a star. He looked un-hittable at times, in part due to his great fastball.

22. Shane Lindsay

29 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.8 MPH

    Shane Lindsay proved that he could do two things during his four appearances for the Chicago White Sox in 2011.

    He was able to throw hard and he was able to give up a lot of runs. Lindsay gave up eight earned runs and walked five in just six innings last season.

21. Fautino De Los Santos

30 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.8 MPH

    The Oakland Athletics have known for years that Fautino De Los Santos was a power pitcher with a blazing fastball. They were waiting for him to develop into a major-league pitcher, though.

    2011 was the first shot that De Los Santos got in the major leagues. He had a decent year and is hoping to improve this season.

20. Stephen Strasburg

31 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.8 MPH

    Even after he underwent Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg still remained as one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers in the majors.

    The future looks incredibly bright for Strasburg. This season should be his first full year in the majors and he should be exciting to watch.

19. Matt Thornton

32 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.8 MPH

    With Chris Sale moving to the starting rotation, and with the trade of Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays, it appears as if Matt Thornton will become the Chicago White Sox closer.

    The hard-throwing reliever has had no problem turning up the heat with his fastball. He has a 9.8 K/9 rate during his career.

18. Arodys Vizcaino

33 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 95.9 MPH

    Arodys Vizcaino reached the major leagues before he turned 21 years old this season. He was a starter in the minors, but the Atlanta Braves moved him to the bullpen.

    This transition allowed Vizcaino to dial up his fastball a few extra notches, and he was able to blow it by hitters.

17. Rubby De La Rosa

34 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.0 MPH

    Rubby De La Rosa was looking incredibly promising during his rookie year for the Los Angeles Dodgers before he suffered an elbow injury.

    The Dodgers will not be without one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers in the majors for the 2012 season, as De La Rosa recovers from Tommy John surgery.

16. Matt Lindstrom

35 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.0 MPH

    Matt Lindstrom spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons as a closer, and he struggled much more than he did when he was a middle reliever.

    After joining the Colorado Rockies for the 2011 season, Lindstrom did not have to deal with the pressure of being a closer. He pitched much better this season.

15. Jason Motte

36 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.0 MPH

    Jason Motte not only picked up nine saves for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, but he also won a World Series ring as a member of the team.

    One of the reasons that Motte was able to put up a 2.25 ERA this past season was because of his outstanding fastball.

14. Kelvin Herrera

37 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.2 MPH

    Kelvin Herrera was just 21 years old when he got a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Royals this year. He could eventually become a good pitcher.

    Herrera has a blazing fastball that has allowed him to move quickly through the minors. The Royals are hoping that his career 1.92 minor-league ERA translates to the majors.

     

    Photo Credit: Newshopper

13. Craig Kimbrel

38 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.2 MPH

    Even with a 5'11" frame, Craig Kimbrel is able to generate a ton of power behind his fastball. He can blow it by hitters without a problem.

    Atlanta Braves saw what Kimbrel could do in 2010 when he posted an insane 17.4 K/9 rate in 21 appearances. In his first year as the Braves closer, Kimbrel was lights-out and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

12. Neftali Feliz

39 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.3 MPH

    For the last two seasons, Neftali Feliz has been the closer for the Texas Rangers. He has recorded 72 saves in that time frame.

    Now the Rangers are planning to move him to their starting rotation for the 2012 season. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his fastball velocity in his new role as a starter.

11. Brandon League

40 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.5 MPH

    When Felix Hernandez took a lead late into the game for the Seattle Mariners last season, they knew that it would be a win since they had Brandon League closing out games.

    League has found a lot of success since taking over the closer role in Seattle. Interestingly enough, despite his roaring fastball, League has just a 6.7 K/9 rate for his career.

10. Mark Lowe

41 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.8 MPH

    Neftali Feliz was not the only pitcher who came out of the Texas Rangers bullpen who could bring the heat when he stepped on the mound.

    Mark Lowe had a higher average fastball velocity than Feliz last season. He was a key part of the Rangers bullpen, and he helped them reach the World Series for the second straight year.

9. Jeremy Jeffress

42 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 96.8 MPH

    Jeremy Jeffress has had to deal with some personal issues during his career, but he has been a premier prospect.

    He saw time in the major leagues this season as a part of the Kansas City Royals bullpen. Jeffress is another one of the young flamethrowers who the Royals can go to.

8. Joel Hanrahan

43 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.1 MPH

    Collecting 40 saves as the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates is an impressive feat and exactly what Joel Hanrahan did in 2011.

    He put together an outstanding season as a member of the Pirates. Hanrahan posted a 1.83 ERA to go along with an 8.0 K/9 rate.

7. Chris Carpenter

44 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.1 MPH

    Chris Carpenter was converted from a starter to a reliever by the Chicago Cubs in 2011. This allowed him to let loose.

    He was able to unleash blazing fastballs that hitters could only watch fly by on a regular basis. Carpenter looked good in his 10 big-league appearances last season.

6. Bobby Parnell

45 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.2 MPH

    There were not many things for New York Mets fans to enjoy last season. One thing they could enjoy was watching hitters as they saw Bobby Parnell's fastballs whiz past them.

    Parnell posted the highest strikeout rate of his career last season. He was able to strikeout 9.7 batters per nine innings.

5. Daniel Bard

46 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.3 MPH

    Daniel Bard is yet another flame-throwing reliever who is potentially being moved to the starting rotation for the 2012 season.

    Bard may not be able to generate as much heat later in games in 2012, but he will be able to contribute more for the Boston Red Sox.

4. Jordan Walden

47 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.5 MPH

    The Los Angeles Angels handed the closer's role over to Jordan Walden this season, which was just his second year in the majors.

    Walden had few problems adjusting to the role and he put together a solid season. He had a 2.98 ERA and recorded 32 saves.

3. Aroldis Chapman

48 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 97.9 MPH

    During the 2010 season, Aroldis Chapman uncorked the fastest pitch in MLB history, recorded at 105 MPH.

    In 2011, Chapman only finished with the third highest fastball velocity in the majors. The Cuban Missile did put up an impressive 12.8 K/9 rate this season.

2. Henry Rodriguez

49 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 98.0 MPH

    Henry Rodriguez was one of just two pitchers in the major leagues last season to average at least 98 MPH for their fastball.

    Rodriguez became a key piece of the Washington Nationals bullpen in 2011, and is looking to play an even bigger role in 2012.

1. Maikel Cleto

50 of 50

    Average Fastball Velocity: 98.4 MPH

    Maikel Cleto only appeared in three games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 and threw just 4.1 innings.

    It was incredibly impressive to watch Cleto rear back and just unleash blazing fastballs on hitters. He is still young and could develop into a solid power reliever.