Major League Baseball
Pitching Ninja's MLB All-Star Game preview: Gerrit Cole, Zac Gallen and more
Major League Baseball

Pitching Ninja's MLB All-Star Game preview: Gerrit Cole, Zac Gallen and more

Published Jul. 10, 2023 1:48 p.m. ET

The MLB All-Star Game (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET on FOX) is always a blast with all the incredible talent from the best baseball players in the world on full display. As the "Pitching Ninja," obviously I'm a little biased toward pitchers, so here is a brief overview of what I'm looking forward to seeing from the All-Star pitching staffs of both the American and National League squads.

American League

Unfortunately, Shohei Ohtani, who I consider one of the filthiest pitchers in baseball, is unlikely to pitch in the game due to his blister and fingernail issue, but the American League pitch staff is still loaded. 

Gerrit Cole, Yankees: Cole leads the majors in pitcher WAR, is a certifiable ace and one of the best pitchers in the game. Cole's velocity is down slightly this year compared to the past couple of years, but he's throwing his fastball more often than he had been (56 percent fastballs this year vs. 51 percent and 49 percent over the previous 2 years).  Importantly, Cole's home-run rate is also down, about half of where it was last year. Cole is also the leader in the clubhouse for the highest pitch in baseball this season! 


Luis Castillo, Mariners: Luis Castillo is a consummate showman and is electric on the bump. I'd love to see him pitch in front of the hometown crowd and get everyone fired up with his nasty stuff and iconic fist-pump K struts.

Sonny Gray, Twins: Gray is a pitching artist and has an unparalleled feel for pitching, in terms of reading swings and spinning the baseball. He's also a master at pitch tunneling, making hitting against him a nightmare.

Nathan Eovaldi, Rangers: Eovaldi is a workhorse. He leads baseball with two complete games this season and is one of the leaders in innings pitched. Nasty Nate also has a diverse pitching arsenal and can beat you in many ways, including messing with timing by switching up his mechanics to keep hitters off balance — in effect, creating multiple variations out of the same pitch!

Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays: Gausman's Splitter is one of the best pitches in baseball. Because he has nearly a 43 percent whiff rate on that splitter and hitters must fear it, while also keeping in mind that Gausman also has a flaming fastball that can touch 99 mph and a dirty slider in his back pocket. It's no surprise that he leads the AL in strikeouts and is averaging nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings.;

His daughter, Sadie, also has a viciously adorable splitter.

George Kirby, Mariners: Another pitcher from the hometown team Mariners' top-notch pitching staff, Kirby is a pitcher's pitcher. He has Greg Maddux-like command, allowing a league-low .8 walks per 9 innings. And, Kirby isn't some soft-tossing pitcher, his fastball can touch 99 mph. Because of his command and stuff, he's an absolute treat to watch pitch, and honestly should be a household name. 

Michael Lorenzen, Tigers: Lorenzen is having a solid season for the Tigers. His filthiest pitch is probably his changeup which has only a .188 batting average against.

Kenley Jansen, Red Sox: Jansen's had a bit of a resurgence in velocity this year, averaging 94.3 mph on his cutter, which is his highest average cutter velocity in nearly 10 years. He has been one of the elite closers in baseball for a long time. 

Félix Bautista, Orioles: The aptly-named Mountain, is one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball. Six-foot-eight with a flaming fastball that touches 103 mph, his best pitch is his splitter, which is virtually unhittable. The combination of Bautista's splitter and fastball is enough to leave any hitter trembling in fear.

Yennier Cano, Orioles: The other half of the Orioles' elite back-end of the bullpen, Cano possesses a nasty changeup that has a batting average against of around .150 and a 40 percent whiff rate. He also has perhaps the best "K stare" in the game. Hitters may not like it, but they have to respect it.

Pablo Lopez, Twins: Lopez has been really good all season. He possesses a top-notch changeup and spins the ball very well. He threw one of the best games this year...a 12K shutout just a week ago.

Jordan Romano, Blue Jays: Romano is an elite closer, with a wicked slider that has nearly a 40 percent whiff rate and throws flames.

And in the tradition of elite closers, Romano sometimes has a bit of a screw loose. Scary!

National League

Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks: I nicknamed Gallen "Grandmaster" because he treats pitching like a game of chess, always a move or two ahead of hitters. A consummate ace, he's in the top 10 in strikeouts in baseball and is one of the early favorites for the NL Cy Young. He's also threw one of the filthiest pitches of the year so far — an inadvertent cut changeup that fooled everyone, including himself!

Justin Steele, Cubs: Steele has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season and is in the top 10 in ERA. He relies on a cutting fastball as well as a filthy slider that averages over 15 inches of horizontal movement. 

Mitch Keller, Pirates: Keller is a hard thrower, but his sweeper can be jaw-dropping in terms of movement. This sweeper broke a full 2 FEET and is one of the filthiest pitches I've seen this season. 

Josiah Gray, Nationals: Gray has been solid for the Nationals all season and has multiple pitches with which he can dominate a lineup. He's fun to watch pitch, especially when he pitches with emotion! 

Alexis Díaz, Reds: Edwin's younger brother has been outstanding in his own right this season and has been one of the top closers in baseball. Earlier this season, he also had this sensational Bohemian Rhapsody Fastball: Mama, he just killed a man.

Josh Hader, Padres: When Hader comes in, it's basically game over. His fastball is very tough to hit, with over a 30 percent whiff rate and a .145 batting average against and his slider is borderline unhittable, sporting a 56 percent whiff rate and a .074 slugging against. Simply, one of the best closers in the game.

Camilo Doval, Giants: Doval throws diesel out of the pen, averaging over 100 mph on his fastball/cutter and has a slider with a 50 percent whiff rate. Doval is a tough at-bat for any hitter in the game.

David Bednar, Pirates: David Bednar should be a force out of the bullpen for the National League. He can beat you with any pitch in his 3-pitch arsenal: his fastball, splitter and curveball each have over a 35 percent whiff rate. He's also full of emotion when he pitches.

I can't wait to see all of these guys compete against the best hitters in the game in Seattle!

Kodai Senga, Mets: Senga has one of the biggest weapons in baseball: his virtually unhittable Ghost Fork. It has a nearly 60 percent whiff rate(!) and hitters are slugging only .149 against it this season. Look how unfair the Ghost Fork is!

Even More All-Stars!

It wouldn't be fair to exclude the filthiness from the following All-Stars who won't be participating in Tuesday's game.

Framber Valdez, Astros: Valdez not only possesses one of the top curveballs in the game, with a 40 percent whiff rate, but also a lethal cutter, that has nearly a 47 percent whiff rate.  He's currently the AL leader in ERA and is undoubtedly a contender for the AL Cy Young Award.

Emmanuel Clase, Guardians: Clase is having an un-Clase type year, with an ERA over 3.50, nearly double his career average. That being said, he still possesses perhaps the fastest cutter in the history of baseball (averaging nearly 99 mph) and is one of the top closers in the game. 

Spencer Strider, Braves: A force of nature, Strider leads baseball with an amazing 14.2 K/9 innings, one of the highest strikeout rates ever in baseball history. He has a blazing fastball, averaging over 97 mph, as well as a wicked slider that has a 57 percent whiff rate. 

Strider generates his velocity from his powerful lower half, I nicknamed Strider "Quadzilla" because he never misses leg day (and leg day is every day that ends in "y").

Bryce Elder, Braves: Elder has been a welcome surprise for the Braves this year and is second in baseball in pitching WAR and leads the majors in ERA. He doesn't possess high-end velocity, but he has very good command and movement that keeps hitters off balance. He's a throwback to the 90s Braves with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. 

Devin Williams, Brewers: Williams's changeup is one of the filthiest changeups of all time. I nicknamed it the Airbender because I got tired of arguing whether it's a screwball or changeup...whatever you call it, it's ridiculous. The Airbender averages nearly 21 inches of horizontal break and is a virtual UFO. It's also the big reason that Williams has been a dominant closer. Hitters have to guard against the Airbender, and it's made his fastball even more effective (Williams has over a 40 percent whiff rate on both his Airbender and his fastball!). 

Marcus Stroman, Cubs: Stro is having one of the best seasons of his career and is in the top 5 in pitching WAR in baseball and top 5 in ERA in the NL. Stroman is also the leader at the half-way point for K Strut of the year, with his Str-oto shuffle, a legendary mockery of Juan Soto's Soto Shuffle. 

Rob Friedman is an MLB pitching analyst for FOX Sports whose work has been featured on many Major League Baseball broadcasts. Follow him on Twitter @PitchingNinja.

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