First Pitch: 12 Pirates Pitchers Who Throw 98+ MPH

This week’s podcast went up today, and on the show we talked about whether Gregory Polanco or Jameson Taillon should come up in September. The argument for Taillon was that the Pirates should be “all hands on deck”, and he could provide value out of the bullpen with a 99 MPH fastball and a plus curveball. At one point in the conversation, I mentioned something along the lines of how the Pirates don’t have a need for a guy with an upper 90s fastball and a plus breaking pitch.

That would probably sound completely absurd if we weren’t talking about the Pirates. But considering how many relievers they have with those two abilities, it’s true. Later tonight I received a report that Nick Kingham had hit 98 MPH in Bradenton before his promotion to Altoona. I had seen him hit 97 before this season, and honestly there’s not much of a difference between 97 and 98. The 98 figure is more or less an arbitrary starting point I’ve been using to keep track of all of the pitchers in the system who have touched that number or higher. Now that Kingham is on the list, the Pirates have 12 guys in their system who can hit at least 98 MPH. Or 13 if you count Stetson Allie, but we won’t. Here is the list:

Gerrit Cole - We saw him hitting as high as 101-102 MPH in his last start against the Angels, and that’s nothing new. Cole routinely tops 98 MPH, even as he approaches 100 pitches.

Jameson Taillon - He’s hit triple digits before, and routinely hits the upper 90s with his fastball.

Justin Wilson Pirates

Justin Wilson has hit 100 MPH this year. (Photo by: David Hague)

Justin Wilson - He might be the most impressive on the list, just because he’s a lefty who can hit triple digits, and has been sitting in the upper 90s this year. Wilson pairs that with some great breaking pitches.

Duke Welker - Welker usually sits in the 96-98 range, and has hit triple digits with his fastball. He also has a plus slider.

Vic Black - Black is similar to Welker in that he sits mid-to-upper 90s and has hit triple digits. He also has a plus slider. Welker’s is a hard slider in the upper 80s, while Black’s is in the mid-80s and is more of a wipeout slider.

Tyler Glasnow - It’s amazing that Glasnow has gone from sitting 89-91 in Spring Training last year to sitting 96-97 tonight, and touching as high as 99 this season. What is even more impressive is that he has a plus curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s. An upper 90s fastball followed by a 78 MPH curveball could be impossible for hitters.

Nick Kingham - As I mentioned, Kingham hit 98. He’s another projectable pitcher who has slowly seen his velocity creep up. He went from 90-93 to hitting 95. Then he started hitting 95 regularly and touching 96. Now he can sit in the 93-95 range and touch 97-98. He’s a strong pitcher with an easy delivery, so he might not be done with the increases. I’ve been saying for the last two and a half years that Kingham profiles as a strong number three, innings eating starter, but I’m giving serious consideration to bumping that up, especially after some reports I got tonight (more on that this week).

Stolmy Pimentel - Pimentel has touched 98 MPH this year, and he hits 96 on a consistent basis. He also has a plus slider which I feel has been the key to his turnaround from last year to this year. Black, Welker, and Pimentel could give the Pirates three relievers in September who can hit 98+ with a plus breaking pitch.

Luis Heredia - He has said he’s hit 98 MPH, and since I’ve seen him hitting 96 before, that’s not out of the question. However, he’s been working more in the 89-91 MPH range this year, and worked 91-94 MPH last year during the season, focusing more on control. When the velocity goes above that, he loses control. If you ever wonder why Heredia is a prospect, it’s the fact that he’s 18, and can already hit the mid-to-upper 90s. One day he might be able to control it in that range.

Jeff Inman - He’s hit 98 MPH in the past, but has also dealt with a lot of injury problems, and hasn’t been the most dominant reliever in Double-A. Early this season he was sitting 94-95 MPH, and he pairs the fastball with a strong curveball.

Yhonathan Herrand - He can hit 98 MPH, but he doesn’t know where it is going. Herrand is a rookie league pitcher, and will stay there until he gets command of his fastball.

Erik Cordier - I was watching Indianapolis video last week and saw Cordier throw an inning. In that inning he hit 100 and 101 about 6-7 times. I’m not sure if the stadium gun is fast, but even if it’s 2-3 MPH fast, that’s 98 MPH. In Spring Training I saw Cordier sitting around 94-96, so this isn’t surprising. He’s dealt with a lot of control problems, but has a lively fastball. If you believe the 100 MPH reading, then that gives the Pirates six pitchers who can hit triple digits (Cole, Taillon, Wilson, Welker, Black, Cordier).

If you drop the velocity down to 97, you add a lot more guys. Today there was a prep draft pick in the GCL who was amazed at Miguel Rosario throwing 89-92 MPH with every pitch. With the way the Pirates’ system has trended the last few years, 89-92 seems slow, 94-95 is the new 88-92, and upper 90s and triple digits become a normal thing. Come September we could see that in the majors, with four relievers in the bullpen who can hit 98+ and have a plus breaking pitch (Wilson, Black, Welker, Pimentel). And that’s without even considering bringing Taillon up.

Links and Notes

**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 10: More Stanton Talk and Should Polanco Be Called Up This Year?

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**Pirates Prospects Has a New Mobile Theme.

**Prospect Watch: Pimentel and Glasnow Dominant; Polanco Hits 1st Altoona HR.

**Another Glasnow Gem in West Virginia Win.

**GCL Notes: Curry and Mathisen Rehabbing; Draft Picks Easing Into Games.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Sweep Rangers, Munoz Takes Over League Batting Race.

**Minor League Schedule: Heredia Makes Season Debut, Rodriguez On Rehab.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    i remember back in day where our top pitchers were guys like Z Duke and Malholm.
    oh how things have changed

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      and Thank God for that!
      :)

  • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

    A year ago, the discussion was, ‘Should Cole come up in September to pitch out of the pen.’
    Answer is the same with Taillon. No. Get two to three starts in AAA, come to spring training with a shot at the rotation, then see ya in June, 2014.

    Pimentel is another story. He needs to be up and contribute in the next month. He is closer to the Justin Wilson mode & should be a fixture in the pen/long relief next year.

  • johnj618

    Question, with the futures of Burnett and Wandy being unknown and guys like Vic Black and Duke Welker in AAA, is there any chance the pirates would attempt to use Justin Wilson as a starter next year? I know hes had a crazy good year out of the bullpen but I would just like to see as many innings out of him as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    AWESOME!!!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    I went to Bowie last night to see Taillon and Polanco, as well as guys like Dickerson, Cunningham, Rojas, and Santos. Here is my general observations, taken from this one game – obviously, conclusions can not be drawn on any one player from just one game however.

    Taillon – Definitely passes the look test for a big MLB workhorse starting pitcher – he is big and looks even bigger on the mound. Although he was consistently hitting 95-97 with nearly ever fastball, and he even hit 98 4-5 times and 99 at least once, his control was not there. The plate umpire appeared to have a pretty narrow strike zone – although I could not tell that for sure as I was sitting 4-5 rows behind the Curve dugout. He pitched 6 innings I think, and I don’t think any were 1-2-3. He walked 4 batters, hit a batter, and went 3-2 on several others.

    Although he obviously has the velocity and raw ability, I came away disappointed in what I saw. The Bowie lineup was weak – I think there were only 2-3 batters with averages above .275 and none are top prospects – most of them are organizational players in the 25-28 range. The only hitter from Bowie ho impressed me was the Cuban player (forgot his name) – he could hit. Given that, I expected someone like Taillon to completely dominate that lineup, and he didn’t. I also did not like his demeanor as he walked back to the dugout each inning – appeared to be upset with himself and sulking a bit. I hope I just caught him on a somewhat off night.

    Polanco – This guy is the real deal – and the hype is matched by the what you see in person. In the first inning, he crushed a 3 run HR to just left of dead center it appeared. In his last AB, he had a single and scored a run. In between, he seemed to struggle with breaking pitches a bit – but that is somewhat expected with such a young player. I was almost more impressed by he play in CF – covers a lot of ground, strong arm, and he made on great diving catch that saved a couple of runs (at the time). He is very tall, but not thin or skinny – he appears very well filled out. He may be one of the few players who could successfully move from AA to the majors later this Summer. I don’t think he would be out of place at all.

    Santos – I was very impressed with this kid – had a single, double, walk, and he crushed a 2 run HR over the bill boards at Bowie’s stadium. He also played very good 3B – and made 2-3 tough plays. He may not have enough power to be a 3B in the majors, but I could see him being a very productive 2B or utility player – he can hit and knows how to hit. I really liked what I saw of him last night.

    Dickerson – He was okay, although playing out of position in RF. Had a couple of singles and a RBI. I was hoping for more – as I am really pulling for him and Lambo to make it. They both seem like good guys.

    Rojas – For some reason, did not play.

    Cunningham – Had 3 hits, although I was not overly impressed with anything he did at the plate. At 2B, he made two very difficult players and also let a routine grounder to him turn into an infield hit (should have been an error) by taking too much time throwing the ball to first – cost his team 2 runs that inning. I did not see anything that really impressed me with him.

    Paulino – If there is a better defensive catcher or someone with a stronger arm, I want to see him. As a catcher, I was VERY impressed with Paulino. Looked to be very athletic and agile. Picked a runner off second base with a laser of a throw. Made a good play on an extremely high popup almost to the back of the backstop. Hitting wise, he only had one hit – but he hit the ball solidly at two other times, but right at someone. I think he’s a sleeper – probably not a starter in the MLB – but a very capable backup.

    Maggi, Howard – Both were awful last night – in the field and at the plate. Maggi played LF and his bad play cost the team 3-4 runs – even though he was not charged with an error. The scorer at Bowie was terrible – a real homer. The Curve was only charged with 1 error, when they should have had anywhere from 3-5.

    Gift – Fast and very impressive in the field at SS. Hitting wise, he had one hit and did not appear to ever be overpowered. If he can learn to hit some, he could be a very serviceable SS or backup SS in the MLB.

    Once Taillon left the game, the roof fell in. They were up 8-0 at one point, and lost 10-9. Townsend pitched better than his stats – the defense did not help him at all. Ramos and Miller were just awful. How they got to AA I have no idea. Ramos was throwing 88-89 and just got hit all over the place. Miller wasn’t much better.

    The Curve generally, are not a very good team. Especially defensively – just awful in LF, RF, 1B, and 2B. They should have beaten Bowie however, as Bowie’s team looked like an independent minor league team – no prospects – and only two (the Cuban OF and the catcher Joseph) have any hope of reaching MLB in my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcus.herbold.37 Marcus Herbold

    In my opinion I think the pirates need to trade taillon. Jurickson Profar would be a perfect fit in the young pirates lineup. The rangers are looking for pitchers and the pirates need a SS/2B. He is exactly the type of player we need. Switch hitter who is gonna be a superstar. I’m sure they would want more than taillon so I think they would consider taillon and Hansen. they also want OF so I’m sure they would push for polanco and taillon in which I would do. Polanco is gonna make the pirates outfield one the best. When I think of marte mccutchen and polanco together in the outfield I can’t help but drool. They will be a force. 3 five tool OF playing together is just absurd. And if they could get a SS like profar without trading polanco imagine the team the pirates would have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcus.herbold.37 Marcus Herbold

    I also don’t like the thought of bringing mike Stanton in for polanco. He’s gonna fight injuries his whole career, he either hits a home run or strikes out. He isn’t a good fielder, he doesn’t have speed, he can’t hit for average and the list goes on. Polanco is gonna be Andrew mccutchen and so isn’t marte. To trade polanco is the worst possible thing the pirates could do. Stanton hasn’t proved a damn thing to me other than he uses steroids and can hit a ball out of a stadium. Not worth it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcus.herbold.37 Marcus Herbold

    I mistakingly said the rangers would push for polanco and taillon which I would do. Wouldn’t do is what I meant to say. I wouldn’t trade polanco for Stanton