Top Ten Sliders

Where does Elvin Ramirez' slider rank?

The look into the best ranking pitches continues with an installment looking at the top sliders. These pitchers' sliders look different, are thrown at varying speeds and are used in different ways, but all are very effective pitches that lay the groundwork for success. Look inside to learn more about the area of greatest depth of any pitch on the farm.

10. Robert Carson – The objective of Carson's first off-season following the 2007 was to build a breaking pitch to go along with a good fastball/changeup combination. To coaches' surprise, the left-hander took to his slider much quicker than anticipated and it became a pivotal tool to his success in 2008. His slider has swing-and-miss break but he employs it more to generate contact. He still hesitates to throw it back door to left-handers or in on right-handers, not trusting its break enough, but keeps it down consistently enough to generate a high rate of groundballs.

9. Eric Brown – Brown is a control artist who does an excellent job of limiting his walks while pitching fearlessly to contact. He pitches off his good, sinking fastball with a low-80s slider that he uses as a put-away pitch. Though not one to register many strikeouts [80 K in 123 IP in 2008], its late break is good enough to alter a hitter's timing. His consistency with the slider has long carried him through troubled times with his fastball and changeup command.

8.: Dylan Owen – When Owen struggled with his fastball command late in the season, he relied on his very tough slider 78-81 MPH slider with overhand break that is his strikeout and put-away pitch. It is the pitch he throws with the highest amount of confidence and knows its break so well that Binghamton Ricky Bones decreed he could throw it with his eyes closed. He can change a hitter's eye level with his slider and has no qualms about putting it right in the strike zone.

7. Eric Beaulac – The right-hander entered the organization with a very mature slider thrown in the low to mid-80s with excellent break. It has shown flashes of being a plus pitch, but he needs to build greater consistency with it. It is easily his second-best pitch behind his fastball, and when it is on, hitters have a difficult time driving it.

6. Scott Shaw – Shaw's diving, high-70s slider led him to his success with Brooklyn above anything else in his repertoire. With his fastball sitting just 88-90 MPH during the summer, Shaw utilized his slider's movement and his impeccable control to not only change hitters' eye levels but pitch inside with movement--and area he continues to focus on. It has the velocity, the command and action all set, but once he really can stay inside at will, his slider will elevate to a next level and further keep hitters off his fastball.

5. Tobi Stoner – Stoner's breaking pitches and have always been the key to his success. His curveball is a stronger pitch but that does not diminish his very tough slider which he will use in any count. He tends to fall in love with his breaking pitches, but given that he can pinpoint his slider [and his curveball] anywhere in the strike zone, he can pitch with the utmost confidence. Stoner has possessed a big-league quality slider since he entered the system, but over the last two seasons he has sharpened his slider and at 82-84 MPH he is able to avoid the fat part of the bat.

4. Elvin Ramirez – Ramirez' total package remains fairly limited as he uses power to establish his game and lacks depth in his repertoire, but what he does own is a power slider with big league break that rapidly developed in his first full season. It gives him an effective pitch to throw away to right-handers as his fastball has lots of running movement into them. He too continues to work on the command and consistency with it, but it is sharp enough that if his changeup never catches on, his fastball/slider combination would be a quite a handful coming out of the bullpen.

3. Jose De La Torre – The small right-hander missed the entire 2008 season due to Tommy John surgery but made it back in one calendar year to pitch 8 2/3 innings in the Puerto Rican Winter League. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, how De La Torre's elbow holds up post-surgery will be something to watch as he was previously viewed as a favorable bullpen option because of his power slider with good tailing action. However, it was the pressure he puts on his elbow with his slider and hard fastball that put him on the shelf in the first place.

2. Bobby Parnell – Parnell's slider command went in and out during the season which led to a lower than expected strikeout total and a higher walk total than his track record indicated, but when on, it ranks right at the top of the system. Sitting in the mid-80s, his slider has very sharp sweeping action that tails over the plate, making it very difficult for right-handers. While he will still get his chances to start in the minors, Parnell's slider is the reason the Mets view him as a valuable piece to future late-inning relief.

1. Brant Rustich – On a whole, Rustich's ranking and positioning within the system can best be described as feast or famine. However, that does not take away from the fact that he owns the best slider on the farm. He throws a devastating slider in the high-80s that can give hitters jelly legs as it looks like a fastball out of his hand before the floor falls out in the strike zone. Rustich was forced to stop throwing it late in the season as the torque generated with his slider created too much pain in his already injured arm. There is general consensus that he owns a plus big league slider right now.

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