Hunter Greene and MLB's 10 Hardest-Throwing Pitching Prospects in 2021July 3, 2021
Hunter Greene and MLB's 10 Hardest-Throwing Pitching Prospects in 2021
It takes more than velocity to be a good pitcher, but that doesn't make it any less exciting to see a guy hit 100 mph on the radar gun.
Top Cincinnati Reds prospect Hunter Greene is healthy after missing the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he is once again showcasing one of baseball's most electric fastballs, including a pitch clocked at 104 mph at Triple-A.
He's not the only rising arm who throws smoke.
We've highlighted 10 of the hardest-throwing prospects in baseball, based on scouting reports, on-field production and overall effectiveness.
The goal was to shine light on pitchers who most MLB fans have not had a chance to see in action, so Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson and Miami Marlins right-hander Sixto Sanchez were excluded after getting extended looks in the majors a year ago.
Let's start with a few honorable mentions who are also worth keeping an eye on.
If you missed it, check out "Spencer Torkelson and MLB's 10 Best Power-Hitting Prospects in 2021" from two weeks ago.
Others to Watch
RHP Matt Allan, New York Mets
Arguably the most talented high school arm in the 2019 draft, Allan slipped to the third round, where the Mets gave him a massive $2.5 million bonus. The 6'3", 225-pound right-hander has prototypical power stuff with a fastball that sits at 96 mph and the ability to reach back for more. Unfortunately, he'll miss all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
RHP Hunter Brown, Houston Astros
Brown has added considerable velocity since he was scraping the low 90s at the start of his collegiate career at Wayne State. The 22-year-old can now touch 98 mph, and he backs that elite heater with a plus curveball and good slider. With Forrest Whitley sidelined, he's the top pitching prospect in the Houston system.
RHP Cade Cavalli, Washington Nationals
The No. 22 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Oklahoma, Cavalli has four above-average pitches in his arsenal. The best of the bunch is a lively four-seam fastball that touched 99 mph in his pro debut. The 22-year-old has shot to the top of a thin Nationals system, and he has a 2.35 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 57.1 innings between High-A and Double-A.
LHP D.L. Hall, Baltimore Orioles
Hall is one of the hardest-throwing lefties in the minors, but his command remains a work in progress. The No. 21 overall pick in the 2017 draft was up to 99 mph with his fastball at the team's alternate site last year, and he has trimmed his walk rate from 6.0 per nine innings in 2019 to 4.5 this year at Double-A while tallying 56 punchouts in 31.2 innings.
RHP Luis Medina, New York Yankees
With one of the most electric fastballs in the minors and a 6.9 BB/9 career walk rate, Medina is a wild card in the Yankees system. The 22-year-old has reached 102 mph with his heater, and a strong start at High-A this year earned him a spot in the Futures Game, where pitching prospects do their best to light up the radar gun. Buckle up!
RHP Shane Baz, Tampa Bay Rays
The 2018 trade that sent Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows is one of the most lopsided in recent memory, and it could get a whole lot worse.
Right-hander Shane Baz was the third piece of the return package that went to Tampa Bay. His stock has been rising since Pittsburgh selected him No. 12 overall in the 2017 draft as a projectable high school standout.
The 6'2", 190-pound fireballer has touched triple digits with his 70-grade fastball, and he backs it with a wipeout slider that gives him a high floor as a potential closer if he does not stick in the starting rotation.
Improved command and refined mechanics have sent his prospect stock soaring since he joined the Tampa Bay organization, and he is knocking on the door for an MLB promotion.
The 22-year-old has a 2.12 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 69-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year.
RHP Edward Cabrera, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins organization is loaded with young pitching talent, from Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers in the MLB rotation to Sixto Sanchez, who's working his way back from injury. Right-hander Edward Cabrera could soon join that core.
The 23-year-old signed for just $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, and he posted middling numbers amid flashes of brilliance during his first three seasons in the Miami farm system.
Things started to click in 2019 when he posted a 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 96.2 innings between High-A and Double-A while rocketing up prospect rankings.
"Cabrera's main weapon is a double-plus, upper-90s fastball with solid sink that can touch 100 mph. That power pitch helped him induce a 49.5 percent ground-ball rate at Double-A and prevents batters from making hard contact in the air," wrote Baseball America.
He battled shoulder soreness last year or he might have debuted for the team's playoff push. With a dominant start to the year at Single-A and Double-A that includes a 0.84 ERA and a 30-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21.1 innings, it's only a matter of time.
RHP Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins acquired three prospects in the 2018 trade-deadline deal that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and right-hander Jhoan Duran has a chance to tip the scales on that deal.
Duran posted a 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 115 innings between High-A and Double-A in his first full season in the Minnesota system in 2019. His emergence made it easier to justify trading Brusdar Graterol to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal for Kenta Maeda prior to last season.
With his size and pure stuff, it's easy to dream of a future atop the MLB rotation.
"Duran is a physically huge pitcher who has two 70-grade offerings in his arsenal. The first is a fastball that sits 96-98 mph and frequently reaches triple digits. The second is his signature 'splinker,' which combines low-90s sinker velocity and the downward depth of a splitter," wrote Baseball America.
The 23-year-old also throws a decent curveball, but the development of his changeup as a change-of-pace offering may determine if he stays in a starting role.
Regardless, his power stuff should allow him to help in some capacity in the not-too-distant future.
RHP Daniel Espino, Cleveland
With arguably the most electric stuff in the 2019 draft class, Daniel Espino went No. 24 overall to Cleveland despite questions about his size and mechanics.
An undersized 6'1", 205-pound right-hander with limited physical projection, Espino also has some effort in his delivery and long arm action, two factors that often indicate significant reliever risk.
However, the stuff is impossible to ignore.
His fastball sits in the upper 90s and regularly touches triple digits, and he can make hitters look silly with a pair of quality breaking pitches: a hard-biting slider and a slower curveball.
The 20-year-old has a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 39.2 innings at Single-A. He has also walked 19 batters for a 4.3 BB/9 walk rate and 1.31 WHIP, so he still has work to do as he climbs the organizational ladder.
Espino has boom-or-bust potential, but his raw stuff stacks up to any pitching prospect in the game.
RHP Luis Gil, New York Yankees
All due respect to the undersized Deivi Garcia and an injured Clarke Schmidt, but Luis Gil is the most promising pitching prospect in the New York Yankees farm system.
The 23-year-old has a 2.86 ERA and 329 strikeouts in 251.2 innings over five minor league seasons, and he is steadily making strides with his command and his secondary stuff.
Make no mistake, though: His fastball stands out above all else.
"Gil has higher-octane stuff than most starters, beginning with a fastball that operates at 95-98 mph for several innings at a time and regularly reaches triple digits with significant riding life up in the strike zone," wrote MLB.com.
The Minnesota Twins signed the 6'2", 185-pound right-hander for just $90,000 in 2015, and the Yankees acquired him in exchange for outfielder Jake Cave before the 2018 season.
He opened the 2021 campaign with a 2.64 ERA and a 50-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30.2 innings at Double-A, earning a promotion to Triple-A. He was knocked around in his first Triple-A start and walked seven batters in four no-hit innings his second time out. He settled down in his third outing, though, and could be knocking on the door to the majors before the 2021 season is over.
RHP Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds
With an 80-grade fastball and the elite athleticism to also be a first-round prospect as a shortstop, Hunter Greene joined the Cincinnati Reds with the potential to be a generational talent on the mound.
He scuffled to begin the 2018 season at Single-A but settled in to post a 2.79 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 53 strikeouts in 42 innings in June and July.
Unfortunately, his season came to an abrupt halt when he suffered an elbow strain that led to Tommy John surgery. That wiped out his 2019 season, and he spent last year at the team's alternate site, where his fastball was back up to 102 mph.
He lost valuable developmental time while he was sidelined, and his secondary stuff is far from a finished product, but he's still 21 years old, and the returns this year have been promising.
The 6'5", 230-pound right-hander turned in a 1.98 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 41 innings at Double-A over seven starts and earned a promotion to Triple-A.
He will likely be on an innings limit, and the Reds have no reason to rush him to the big leagues, but he'll be must-see TV the second he steps foot on an MLB mound.
LHP Brailyn Marquez, Chicago Cubs
Left-hander Brailyn Marquez has a chance to be the Chicago Cubs' best homegrown pitcher since Carlos Zambrano was the staff ace during the 2000s.
The lanky 6'4", 185-pound southpaw sat in the 96-98 mph range with his fastball in 2019 and topped out at 102 mph, lighting up the radar gun with easy mechanics from a low three-quarters arm slot during a breakout season.
He posted a 3.13 ERA with 128 strikeouts in 103.2 innings between Single-A and High-A to gain some attention on top prospect lists, but he also walked batters at a 4.3 BB/9 clip, and his secondary stuff remains a work in progress.
"He has the ceiling of a front-line starter but also comes with reliever risk, though he definitely has closer upside if he winds up in the bullpen," wrote MLB.com.
The 22-year-old was expected to join the Double-A roster in early May after COVID-19 issues erased his spring training and he was working to build up arm strength, but he has yet to take the mound in 2021. Whenever he returns to action, he'll continue building toward a bright future on the North Side.
RHP Max Meyer, Miami Marlins
Despite Max Meyer's limited collegiate track record as a starter, the Miami Marlins selected him No. 3 overall in the 2020 draft out of the University of Minnesota. He struck out 46 batters in 27.2 innings before his junior season was halted by the pandemic.
The 6'0", 196-pound right-hander exited the college ranks with two elite pitches: a 70-grade fastball that touches 100 mph and a lethal wipeout slider that sits in the low 90s and was arguably the best pitch in the 2020 draft class.
He could have gone directly into the MLB bullpen with that electric two-pitch arsenal, but the Marlins intend to develop him as a starter, and his changeup has been better than expected.
The 22-year-old made his pro debut at Double-A this year, and he has a 1.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 49 innings. He has also issued 24 free passes for a 4.4 BB/9 walk rate, so he has work to do cleaning up his command, but his high-octane stuff should allow him to move quickly through the system.
The seasons to come will determine whether the Marlins made the right decision to select him over Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy.
RHP Bobby Miller, Los Angeles Dodgers
Used in a hybrid role in his first two seasons with Louisville, Bobby Miller joined a rotation fronted by curveball specialist and eventual 10th overall pick Reid Detmers in 2020. He showed enough during the shortened spring to play his way into the first-round conversation.
The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him with the No. 29 overall pick, adding another hard-throwing arm to a system that has done an excellent job of developing pitching talent.
While a plus slider and improving changeup give him upside in a starting role, his fastball vaulted him up draft boards during his time on campus.
"Miller throws harder than most starters, working into the mid-90s deep into games and topping out at 99 mph, and his fastball plays above its impressive velocity because it features heavy life," wrote MLB.com.
The 22-year-old has a 2.28 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 34-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27.2 innings at High-A Great Lakes to begin his pro career. He could be in line for an early promotion if he continues to dominate.
RHP Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles
Grayson Rodriguez could make a strong case as baseball's best pitching prospect given MacKenzie Gore's struggles at Triple-A for San Diego and Nate Pearson's and Sixto Sanchez's injuries.
The Baltimore Orioles selected Rodriguez with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 draft, behind only Casey Mize (No. 1 to DET), Ryan Weathers (No. 7 to SD) and Carter Stewart (No. 8 to ATL) among pitchers.
The 6'5", 220-pound right-hander was more present stuff than future projection at the time he was drafted, and that stuff has played at an elite level against minor league hitters.
The 21-year-old has a 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 76 strikeouts in 48 innings between High-A and Double-A this year. While he has a well-rounded repertoire that includes a plus slider and one of the best changeups in the minors, his fastball is his bread and butter.
"His four-seam fastball sat 95-98 mph with plus-plus potential all summer, and for the second straight year got harder as the season went on," wrote Baseball America.
Catching prospect Adley Rutschman saw one of his gloves fall victim to a 99 mph fastball from Rodriguez last month.
The O's may have a future Cy Young contender on their hands and the organization's best homegrown arm since Mike Mussina.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Thursday's games.