In today’s installment of The Toolshed we will tackle one of the more difficult pitches to throw consistently, the curveball. It has been blessed with many a moniker over the years: “Uncle Charlie,” “Yakker,” and “The Deuce” among them. The curveball is often easier to throw for pitchers with higher arm slots—true three-quarters and above—because it’s easier to position the wrist and keep the fingers on top of the ball where they need to be. Most pitchers start their grip with the middle finger on the seam, while the thumb either extends or curls under, on the opposite seam. Others, with increasing frequency, prefer the knuckle, or “spike,” curveball grip. In this iteration, the index finger is tucked back and the first knuckle is used to grip the baseball. The delivery should be the same as that for a fastball, except for the karate chop-like motion at release that imparts topspin on the baseball.
The 12-to-6 curveball is the most iconic, but the shape can vary to include 11-to-5 and even 10-to-4 trajectories. But as the angle lowers, the pitch will start to run into a slider shape and get “slurvy,” with more horizontal break than vertical depth. Velocity-wise, the typical curveball will be in the low-70’s to low-80’s, but it will generally be at its best at the higher end of that velocity range, because with velocity comes a sharper, tighter break. The less velocity the pitch has, the greater the likelihood its rotation will loosen and cause the pitch to hang up in the zone.
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The second-overall pick in the 2010 draft has some catching up to do.
The Situation: The Pirates and Taillon had an interesting path to navigate because of an injury background that saw the last two seasons wasted due to Tommy John Surgery and a hernia, respectively. After building up his arm strength to start the year, Taillon is up to face off with the reigning NL Champion New York Mets.
Which alter ego of Riff Raff would you name your pet after?
He knew the question was coming, like a golfer sizing up a crucial par putt on the back nine. Pittsburgh right-hander Jameson Taillon was ready for it. Instead of shying away from discussing the past two years filled with multiple surgeries, seemingly endless rehabilitation, pain management, and an unexpected setback, the 24-year-old has embraced the opportunity to share his experience.
Notes on Jameson Taillon's first start in two years, Josh Naylor, and more.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
Taillon pitched on Wednesday for the first time since late 2013 after two surgeries (Tommy John, hernia), and it couldn’t have gone much better. Over six innings Taillon allowed six hits, with six strikeouts, and no walks. His fastball wasn’t showing the same velocity that it did pre-surgery, but he worked at 90-94 mph, topping out at 95. The tailing action on his fastball complemented the lower velocity well, but it remains to be seen if he can get back into the range he had previously operated in.
As of right now his best pitch is his curveball, which breaks hard and late resulting in multiple swings-and-misses for the Mud Hens. Taillon showed his changeup more than a few times, mostly using it to keep hitters honest. Overall his control in the game resulted in no walks, which was a good sign in his first game back. The action on his pitches helped him get away with missing a few spots that still resulted in whiffs, something he will have to work on before he gets to Pittsburgh. His arm action was repeatable, with quality arm speed.
Javier Baez gets the nod atop the first edition of this year's list.
Welcome back to my focal column here at Baseball Prospectus, The Stash List. I know, you’ve missed it. But for the 2014 season, we’re starting right from Week 1 with a first look at who you should be spending valuable reserve slots on in your league. For those of you not familiar with this column and the types of players who are included/excluded from it, I will now throw it out to past Bret to explain from April of 2013:
The purpose of it is to rank the top 25 players who are not active contributors to fantasy teams for 2013 only. Again, it does not take into account future value, which would result in a very different order. This list will include four different types of players, with specific restrictions attached:
These five top-100 arms could help your fantasy team in the near future.
As the spring builds up and draws to a close, there is a lot to pay attention to. One of said things is the impression that prospects make in camp that can either win them an unexpected spot on a team’s roster or put them in better position for a call-up once the season gets going. Here are five players with prospect eligibility (for fantasy purposes, we don’t care about service time) who are making a positive impression this spring that could lead to heightened fantasy value in 2014.
Carlos Martinez, P, St. Louis Cardinals
The recipient of far too many Pedro Martinez comps in the minor leagues (he’s a vertically-challenged Dominican starter with great raw stuff, so of course Pedro, duh), Martinez is being given a legitimate shot to beat out Joe Kelly for the final spot in the Cardinals’ rotation this spring. This opportunity was made possible by yet another Jaime Garcia shoulder setback, but if it happens, it could vault Martinez’ fantasy star through the roof.
A look back at the high school and college days of top prospects like Javier Baez and Robert Stephenson.
As part of Perfect Game's partnership with Baseball Prospectus, David Rawnsley, Todd Gold and Patrick Ebert will be conducting a “Before They Were Pros” series, providing scouting reports on some of the top prospects in baseball from when they were in high school attending PG events. This six-part series (one for each division in MLB) will appear once Baseball Prospectus has provided their own detailed scouting reports of the top prospects, team-by-team, as part of their “Prospects Will Break Your Heart” series.
We continue by looking at select top prospects from National League Central teams. Be sure to read Baseball Prospectus' features on each of these five teams: