10 Pitchers Who Will Break out as MLB's Next Wave of 100 MPH Flamethrowers

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2017

10 Pitchers Who Will Break out as MLB's Next Wave of 100 MPH Flamethrowers

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    The 2017 MLB campaign will be remembered for home runs, and for good reason. Hitters across both leagues broke the record for most dingers in a season.

    It was also a big year for pitching velocity, though. Among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings, 18 averaged 97 mph or faster with their fastball, according to Pitchf/x data compiled at FanGraphs. Only 11 pitchers achieved that feat in 2016. Seven did it in 2015. In 2014, it was an exclusive club of two.

    You're sensing the trend. Even as big league hitters are taking aim at the bleachers with increasing frequency, big league hurlers are countering with zippier pitches. 

    Where 100 mph fastballs used to be a novelty, they're now an indelible part of the game. To quote the late Howard Hughes, it's the "way of the future."

    Speaking of the future, who will break out as MLB's next wave of triple-digit flamethrowers?

    Let's take a look, narrowing our search to top prospects (per MLB.com's list) whose rookie status is still intact but who are close(ish) to making a triple-digit splash in The Show.

Michel Baez, RHP, San Diego Padres

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    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 93

    Cuban right-hander Michel Baez is just 21 years old and hasn't pitched above Single-A. At that level, however, he struck out 82 in 58.2 innings while posting a 2.45 ERA and throwing consistently in the high 90s.

    Those numbers coupled with his big arm could send him rocketing through the rebuilding San Diego Padres' system.

    Once he hits the big leagues, the 6'8", 220-pounder profiles as either a mid-rotation starter or a bat-missing, late-inning reliever.

Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 90

    The first of three Chicago White Sox prospects we'll meet on this list, Alec Hansen struck out 191 hitters in 141.1 innings in 2017 and rose as high as Double-A.

    His fastball tickled 99, and the 23-year-old's 6'7" frame suggests room to add even a tick more. 

    Further refinement in his command and mechanics will help Hansen stand out in a loaded White Sox system and put him on track to join what should be a formidable young pitching staff on the South Side.

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta Braves

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    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 82

    The concern with left-hander Luiz Gohara has never been his stuff but rather his physique.

    The 21-year-old shed pounds and added velocity in 2017 as his fastball ticked into the high 90s. Still just 21 years old, the Brazilian southpaw ascended to Triple-A and posted a 2.62 ERA with 147 strikeouts in 123.2 innings across three levels overall.

    If he can maintain his newfound commitment to conditioning, his fastball could gain even more zip, and he might soon be throwing it at SunTrust Park.

Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 57

    Acquired by the White Sox as part of the deal that sent Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs, right-hander Dyan Cease racked up 126 strikeouts in 93.1 innings at Single-A while hitting 100 mph with his eye-popping fastball.

    The 21-year-old was shut down in early September because of shoulder fatigue and will have to prove his stamina next season.

    No one, however, doubts the sheer potency of his heater. 

Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 54

    The fourth overall pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2016 amateur draft, Riley Pint struggled with his command in 2017, posting a 5.42 ERA and walking 59 in 93 innings at Single-A.

    Clearly, there's work to be done before the 19-year-old is a factor at Coors Field, though he did improve as the season wore on.

    "He's really done a lot of work with his delivery," Single-A Asheville pitching coach Ryan Kibler said in late July, per Baseball America's Josh Norris. "He's really tightened up his delivery."

    Pint has a solid foundation to build on, including a fastball that has been recorded as high as 102 mph. Control and consistency can be taught. That kind of cheddar cannot.

Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 45

    The Los Angeles Dodgers handed a $16 million bonus to Yadier Alvarez in 2015. The team believes the lanky Cuban has the makings of a frontline starter.

    He flashed results in 2017, striking out 97 in 92.1 innings between High-A and Double-A. He also walked 50, meaning there are command kinks to be worked out.

    His fastball is breaking the triple-digit barrier, however, and he's got room to add muscle and mph.

    His Dodgers debut may not come until 2019. In the meantime, he's a talent for Southern California fans to dream on.

Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    MLB.com Prospect Rank: No. 17

    The No. 2 overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2017, Hunter Greene could crack the big leagues as either a pitcher or position player.

    It appears the Reds see his future on the mound, and while he's logged only a few token pro innings in rookie ball, the 18-year-old will be on the big league fast track.

    As Bleacher Report's Joon Lee detailed in an extensive July profile, Greene is already something of a legend and was hitting 100 mph consistently in high school.

    Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman told Lee he thinks Greene can be a powerful role model for aspiring African-American ballplayers.

    "He's so vital because those kids are going to be picking up those magazines and saying, 'Who's this?'" Stroman said. "A black baseball player? A pitcher? Who is throwing 102?"

Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    MLB.com Prospect Ranking: No. 14

    Alex Reyes would have burned through his rookie status last season—and lit up his share of radar guns—but Tommy John surgery in February derailed those plans.

    The 23-year-old's recovery is progressing without any significant bumps, per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

    Assuming he returns with the same stuff he showed before the injury, he should find a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation or bullpen. 

    In his limited big league action, Reyes has averaged 97.3 mph with his fastball and hit 100-plus on multiple occasions.

Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    MLB.com Prospect Ranking: No. 10

    Walker Buehler had Tommy John surgery shortly after the Dodgers drafted him in 2015. Less than a year later, the Vanderbilt alum returned to action and flashed the tools that gave Los Angeles faith.

    Buehler logged 88.2 minor league innings in 2017 and got a taste of the big leagues, making eight relief appearances with the Dodgers.

    His fastball sits in mid-to-high 90s, and he can jump up to 100 mph. Add a plus curveball, slider and an emerging changeup, and you've got the ingredients for a top-of-the-rotation arm.

Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    MLB.com Prospect Ranking: No. 9

    You've probably heard the legend of Michael Kopech and his 107 mph pitch. If not, read this entertaining piece by Bleacher Report's Scott Miller

    Kopech won't be throwing that fast with any consistency—or probably at all—when he reaches the big leagues.

    The game's top-ranked pitching prospect has incredible life in his right arm, however, and he showed it by striking out 172 hitters in 134.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

    Still just 21 years old, Kopech seems like a lock to make his debut with the White Sox next season. When he does, radar guns will be cocked around the yard. 

       

    All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.