InsidePitchMagazine.com continues to answer nine of the pressing questions facing the Mets farm…
MMLN: Top Tools – Fastballs
Kyle Allen – Allen's fastball velocity dipped in the second half of the season as he fought through increasing back pain. He witnessed his velocity fall into the high-80s, but that is not nearly indicative of his true fastball. Earlier this season he was sitting 91-93 MPH, touching 94 MPH, with good tail away from left-handers. His fastball isn't quite a put-away pitch yet, but is very effective at inducing ground balls and weak contact when he keeps it down in the zone.
Armando Rodriguez – Speaking off keeping the ball down in the zone, that's how Rodriguez is at his best while reaching 92 MPH this year. He traded some velocity for movement this season which caused his fastball to dip from a max of 94 MPH last year to the 90-92 MPH range this season. Nevertheless, Rodriguez was still very effective as he struck out 152 in 146 innings. Tail and drop allow Rodriguez to establish at-bats with the fastball and go back to it to finish off at-bats.
Eric Niesen – Niesen is another pitcher who battled with inconsistent fastball velocity. As I mentioned in the Instructs updates, coaches are working with Niesen to incorporate more of his lower half into his delivery which should help get his velocity back in the 91-93 MPH range after falling to 89-91 MPH at times this season. Niesen's fastball has very good tail and drop which makes him very effective against left-handers, but he needs to regain his velocity to balance out his ability to retire right-handers.
10. Brad Holt – I'm not giving up on Holt's fastball. Yes, his velocity danced all over the place in 2010 and ranged from 88-92 MPH which is cause for his drop in this year's rankings. However, when his mechanics are going right and he extends and finishes true and towards the plate, Holt has shown the ability to hit 94-95 MPH. That's the velocity he reached in his first season in 2008 and there is nothing outside his mechanics to say that he can't return to that velocity. Whether or not he can reclaim his velocity will determine his short term impact in this system and is one of the individual story lines to watch this fall and into next season.
9. Robert Carson – There's a lot to like from a left-hander who maxed out at 95 MPH this season. Carson' typically sits 91-93 MPH, but most important he showed good command of it throughout the season. Much of his rough numbers in Double-A came from lesser secondary pitches, but Carson was able to at least establish himself in games with the fastball. Carson is a big, strong left-hander who throws hard. That alone could carry him a distance in this organization.
8. Ryan Fraser – Fraser was a bit of a sleeper on the Mets' 2010 draft board but quickly established himself with his 91-95 MPH fastball. He still needs to add some movement to it, but so far Fraser compensates very well for a lack of movement with excellent command on both sides of the plate. A big, strong right-hander Fraser has the physical tools and the fastball to quickly move as a reliever.
7. Domingo Tapia – Tapia was quietly signed as a free agent in 2009, but the 18-year-old right-hander could make a name for himself in coming years. He is still very raw and his secondary pitches are underdeveloped, but the 6-foot-4 hurler opened eyes of scouts with his 91-95 MPH fastball with some tailing action. Oddly enough, he didn't miss many bats (34 K in 58 2/3 IP in 2010), but he does a good job of keeping it down in the zone which allowed him to maintain a high ground ball ratio.
6. Luis Rojas – Rojas spent the season in the Sand Gnats bullpen and while the numbers terribly eye-catching (2-0, 3.58 ERA, 21/21 K/BB, 37 2/3 IP), but the 21-year-old right-hander comes of the bullpen throwing 93-98 MPH and showed that again at Instructs. He isn't a big guy at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but Rojas has enough strength in his arm to turn up the heat on the gun. His fastball is fairly straight and does not fool hitters, but he is nonetheless one of the harder throwers in the organization.
5. Brant Rustich – Rustich continues to land on these lists, but remains an unfortunate case of "when healthy." That label has been a disappointing tag on Rustich who simply has not overcome a rash of arm and elbow problems. When healthy, Rustich can ratchet up his fastball in the mid-90s with very sharp, downward bite. His fastball alone is a put-away pitch with its downward movement or he can reach back and simply overpower hitters up in the zone with his four-seamer.
4. Nick Carr – Carr is another hard-thrower who underwent surgery but came back in late 2010 and showed no decrease in his velocity. I touched on Carr in the Arizona Fall League preview, so his strengths with the fastball are documented. Carr is still just 23 years old and could be in position to really move in 2011 as long as he suffers no unforeseen setbacks.
3. Matt Harvey – One of the most enticing elements that made Harvey the Mets' top pick in 2010, and the 7th overall, is that he sat 96-97 MPH with the fastball during his final collegiate season. Harvey did not pitch an inning during the 2010 and has so far been limited to side work at Instructs, so it will not be until 2011 that we get a good look Harvey's fastball and the rest of his repertoire. However, Harvey should be a fast mover up the ladder and much of that is attributed to his overpowering fastball.
2. Jeurys Familia – Familia surprised many this season when his fastball climbed from a peak of 94 MPH last year to 98 MPH this season. Added strength to his build is certainly a contributing factor, but more consistent mechanics helped him stayed closed, on top of the fastball and increased his velocity. Familia needs to do a better job commanding his fastball, but its velocity and solid tailing action make it one of the best in the system.
1. Jenrry Mejia – And then there is Mejia's fastball which while it may not generate the highest velocity at all times (93-97 MPH), it is best fastball in the system because of his command and the movement he generates. Mejia's sharp diving and tailing fastball gives it plus movement. It is very difficult for hitters to lift and drive, making him a very effective groundball and strikeout pitcher. Mejia's fastball isn't a true sinker, but the power and movement he generates gives him the proverbial "bowling ball" effect that will work either in a starting relieving role.
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