Spin Rate Masters


Justin Goetz
PBR Georgia Assistant Scouting Director

Firstly, I’m far from a trackman/rapsodo expert and am learning from friends every day, such as Full Count Baseball and many top D1 & Pro pitching gurus. After developing dozens of MLB draft picks on the mound - I’m very confident in my understanding of pitching mechanics (how to properly sequence & adjust them), grading pitches on a pro scale, approach, and overall evaluation of a pitchers future. With that being said, failing to incorporate spin and trackman metrics into the evaluation of a pitcher would be a huge mistake. 

This article will focus on fastballs and breaking balls, the pitches where high spin is most impactful. High spin or low spin changes the trajectory of a pitch. For example: FB’s with high rpm’s (revolutions per minute) resist the force of gravity, bringing illusion to a hitters eyes by dropping to the plate slower. The pitch looks like it’s rising to the hitter, Instead of coming on a gradual downhill plane (easier for a hitter to match with swing path). A low spin FB can be just as impactful, dropping to the plate faster and falling off a hitters swing plane suddenly. 

When evaluating a good CB, SLV, SL - you want to see the life/action on the pitch and how the bats react to it before focusing on the RPM. Does it have sudden, late break? Gradual, deceptive break? Early vertical snap followed by slower, horizontal sweep? You can have a CB with tight rotation and gradual vertical (IVB) break with almost no horizontal (HZB). You can have a SLV with rotation just as tight that gets wide shape and later, sharper break. Regardless of the breaking ball shape, more spin usually equals more movement.

There are always exceptions. I’ve seen high spin breaking balls that aren’t very good, and low spin breakers that are very impactful (usually KCB’s). Clayton Kershaw has below MLB avg spin on his CB, showing spin isn’t the only determining factor of a quality pitch. Josh Hader averages 1984 rpm on his “sinker”, creating all his ride+run action due to near perfect spin efficiency from a sidearm arm slot. Simply put - when you have perfect backspin on a FB, it can create a rising effect with low spin rate. Below are the average MLB spin rates for reference :

4 seam FB - 2,315 rpm 

CB - 2,550 rpm 

SL - 2,455 rpm 

CUT - 2,405 rpm 

Sinker - 2,150 rpm

An athletic delivery & clean arm action that can be consistently repeated with good timing, arm speed, movement, command, pitchability, and confidence are just as important when evaluating a pitcher's future. Every pitcher in this article has a breaking ball with plus or better potential. With that being said, these are the Top 5 Spin Rate Masters I’ve scouted in 2022.

Porter Buursema, RHP, Blessed Trinity, 2023
Georgia Southern Commit. The 5 foot 11, 170 pounder has freakish strength in his core and lower half with a medium frame. It’s a twitchy, compact delivery with incredible balance and direction. He has a smooth, full circle arm action (OH slot) that gains gradual momentum in one piece and times up with his stride. Porter creates a shocking amount of torque in hip/shoulder separation, and is very mobile+flexible as the arm works into throwing position. These positives in his delivery correlate well to the dizzying spin he creates. At PBR’s National Program Invitational, he produced a shocking trio of pitches with ridiculous spin. His FB averaged 300+ rpm’s above MLB avg at 2600-2700, working into the 2800’s. The pitch rode over barrels the entire outing, defying gravity. He shows an ability to stay behind the pitch well for insane vertical break, but will cut it at times. This creates a rare ride+cut combo and adds a different element. There’s no reason this won’t be a future plus pitch. His 2800 rpm SL at 78-80 T82 is one of the best I’ve ever seen at the HS level. It comes out just like his FB but quickly snaps into disappearing a two plane nose dive with late HZB. It's an absolute lock to be an elite pitch at the games highest level. Finally we arrive at Buursema’s 3k rpm CB. It’s got a much wider shape than the SL, with more sweep than depth. The pitch is still sharp and he loves to locate it backdoor on LHH. We can’t wait to see where he ends up in rpm’s, and career wise.
 



Caden Carroll, RHP, Cartersville, 2023
Uncommitted. 6 foot 3, 190 pounds with a large frame with long levers and much room to fill into his body. It’s a timed up, well connected all stretch delivery that helps him repeat his nasty stuff over and over again. His hands & lift knee solidify that timing from the 1st moment he moves- going up together, and breaking at the exact same moment. He sits into his back leg very well with a slight bend from start to finish. This takes pressure off his arm and allows his upper half & core to connect over the rubber and fire together. All of these attributes help Caden consistently rip high spin FB’s and SLV’s, but the finishing touch is the way he rotates. His shoulders+chest+core rotate on an identical plane of his loose & lengthy L ¾ slot. This allows him to keep his hand behind the baseball on all pitches for efficient spin and movement. It gives his high spin 87-89 T91 FB (2,320-2,461) extra carry up in the zone to go with nasty run. Then comes his already A/AVG to plus SLV at 3,000-3,200 rpm, one of the most beautiful pitches I’ve ever seen. It gets up to 17 inches of horizontal break which is literally the width of the strike zone, and also 5 inches of late depth. The pitch spins like Earth & Saturn out of hand - rotating toward a RHH, then power sweeping across the zone with late depth. Very similar life on the pitch to former RP Chaz Roe, and dominated some big time hitters at our NPI Pro Case. 

 



Tate McKee, RHP, Mt Paran, 2023
Georgia Tech Commit. The projectable 6 foot 2, 180 pounder with broad shoulders, long levers and lean strength makes every action on the mound look easy. He works with a fast tempo, and his athletic delivery stays compact & connected to his biggest muscles. The arm swing is very efficient out of the glove creating gradual momentum from an efficient short circle (¾ slot). It’s a big reason he stays inside his FB so well with natural pronation, and allows him to repeat his breaking pitches without casting his hand and losing bite+depth. Tate throws 2 different live FB and 2 special breaking balls: 2 seam at 89-90 T91 (2400-2500) with explosive run+sink from a steep plane that perfectly mirrors his SL. The 79-80 SL rotates at 2600-2700 on identical 2 seam plane with tight spin with wipeout depth and late HZB. This means hitters can’t ever sit on either pitch, because they look the same until they’re half way to the plate! His 4 seam (2300-2400) has more ride+run and he uses it up in the zone with his 76-78 CB, using the induced vertical break of both pitches to mirror each other in a different way early in their paths. There are few pitchers in the country with a high spin repertoire of this detail.


Zachary Hernandez, RHP, Lincoln County (TN), 2023
Uncommitted. The 6 foot 2, 175 pounder throws absolute wiffle balls from his lengthy, wiry strong build. He’s patient over rubber & holds backside bend as he works downhill. The arm speed, timed up separation, and connection at landing are all there. His unique yet healthy arm action is a big reason he produces rare spin on his FB & CB - It's a short, efficient arm stroke, but what happens as the arm gets into throwing position is different. He angles his forearm & wrist behind his head at landing, creating serious torque. As he works to his release point the elbow & wrist spiral, creating a vicious snap in the wrist and unique “bullet like” spin as the ball leaves his hand. The FB at 86-87 T89 plays well up in the zone with plus  ride and late cut. We don’t have all his data, but - it seems to have gyro like action, causing the pitch to go straight and maintain plane without break. It also seems to be highly spin efficient, which gives the appearance of late cut. It’s just as tough to square up low in the zone due to how slow it drops, rotating at 2600 rpm. Hernandez’ sweeping CB is one of the best in the southeast for his class, bending air at 71-73 w/ 3200 rpm (reportedly up to 3400)!! It hovers above the zone spinning relentlessly until it suddenly snaps, getting unreal depth. Harnandez put on a great performance in our PBR Classic.


Jayden Nunez, RHP, Collins Hill, 2024
Uncommitted. A lengthy 5 foot 11, 160 pounds with broad shoulders. fluid rhythm, high energy & ease of operation on the hill. Nunez is very flexible and mobile on the mound, allowing him to create pure torque from vast hip/shoulder separation. Bats don't react well to his loose, mid depth arm act that builds effortless arm spd from near sidearm slot. He might be the youngest arm in this top 5, but his current stuff deserves a place on this list and only will improve as he fills out the frame. His nasty 2,400-2,500 rpm FB at 84-87 creates a difficult across the zone angle for hitters. The pitch bores up in the zone, with electric run down and some late sink. It mirrors his advanced breaking ball more often than not. Jayden’s 73-75 SLV is a banger with elite potential at 2700-2900 rpm! It sweeps across the entire zone w/ sharp+efficient spin, tilt, and late depth. His delivery and repertoire match up similarly to Rockies RP Mychal Givens. He was a stand out talent at our 16U National Championship. There’s no doubt Nunez is a high priority prospect and we can’t wait to see what he turns into.

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