The MLB Statcast leaderboard for fastest pitches has a whole lot of Aroldis Chapman on it – so much so that there is a handy-dandy ‘Chapman Filter’ right on the page. The thing is, turning on that filter doesn’t really help. When you filter out Aroldis Chapman, you get a whole bunch of Mauricio Cabrera. Right away, there’s a name that’s not talked about nearly as much. That got me wondering, what do the hardest throwers in the Majors offer from a fantasy perspective? For that, let’s look at the leaders in average pitch velocity.
Aroldis Chapman averaged 100.9 mph over 773 four-seam fastballs in 2016. Believe it or not, that’s nearly a whole mile-per-hour improvement from his 2015 mark. While not particularly fantasy relevant, it’s interesting to note that his fastest pitch came in at a blistering 105.1 mph against J.J. Hardy on July 18th. Chapman is a known quantity in fantasy — an elite closer who should be in consideration for the top fantasy spot at the position. While set-up man Dellin Betances offers a small threat to job security, his Betances’ electric stuff should hold leads and five Chapman more save opportunities than he had with his little Cubs stint.
Mauricio Cabrera averaged 100.6 mph over 460 four-seam fastballs and topped out at 103.8 mph (also on July 18th – weird). The 23-year-old notched a 2.82 ERA in 38.1 innings in his first time in the Majors with the Braves. He even grabbed six saves and avoided giving up a single home run. Cabrera still sits behind Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson in the saves pecking order as of right now, but he is taking advantage of his opportunities. At his age, Cabrera could be a good sleeper pick in a dynasty draft, as he could very well be the future closer for the Braves. Literally only one other person threw as fast as him this past year…that has to pay dividends at some point.
Carlos Estevez comes in third on the list averaging 98.5 mph over 100 pitches with his two-seam fastball. Estevez’s four-seamer (which he threw 615 times) averages 98.0 mph and comes in 10th on the list. Estevez had a wild 2016 as you would expect at Coors Field, grabbing 11 saves over 55 innings with a 5.24 ERA. He just turned 24 years-old, and the eye-popping fastball gives him huge upside, but the secondary pitches are unimpressive (with his slider showing the most potential) and Estevez struggled to limit walks last season. Don’t bank on saves from the Rockie just yet, as he’s third in line for the job at the moment, but he’s certainly worth keeping tabs on.
Brian Ellington tied for fourth averaging 98.3 mph over 444 four-seam fastballs and topped out at 100.8 on June 13th. Ellington is 26 years-old and threw 33 innings in 2016 to the tune of a 2.45 ERA (until his final appearance of the year he had a 1.93 ERA). He’s not exactly fantasy relevant just yet, but some progression with his slider could lead to a second successful season, and possibly a chance to pitch later in games.
Also tied for fourth is Noah Syndergaard. He also averaged 98.3 mph with his four-seamer, but over 910 pitches. Syndergaard’s sinker also comes in at 8th on this list averaging 98.0 mph over 815 pitches. His fastest pitch of the year was a 101.4 mph sinker on April 18th. Everyone knows who Thor is and he should be on everyone’s radar, especially in dynasty formats as he is only 24 years-old. Let’s hope he can stay away from the Mets’ injury bug and we can keep watching him throw the heat.
Dellin Betances averaged 98.1 mph with his four-seamer over 528 pitches. His fastest pitch came in at 101.8 mph against Jose Bautista on September 25th. Betances had an eventful 2016, with his chance as the Yankees’ late-season closer being derailed by fatigue and a loss of command. As a result of that final month, his ERA in 2016 was more than the previous two years put together, but as long as Betances is healthy, there’s no reason not to expect another elite season next year. He won’t be closing, but the 28-year-old is an outstanding option in holds leagues
Arodys Vizcaino is the other flamethrower in the Braves’ bullpen. He averaged 98.1 mph over 372 pitches with his two-seamer and 97.8 mph over 63 pitches with the four-seamer. Vizcaino is an interesting guy in dynasty baseball, having just turned 26 years-old. While health has been a problem, he has outstanding stuff while healthy, though his numbers haven’t quite backed that up yet. Still, if Vizcaino can stay on the field next season, he could turn into a very solid closer while being part of an awesome, Dominican one-two punch for years to come, along with Mauricio Cabrera.