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These 5 teams need Eovaldi's elite velocity

Hard-throwing righty could be perfect free-agent addition

By David Adler / MLB.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 6:32 PM PT

Nathan Eovaldi's velocity makes him stand out from nearly all starting pitchers -- but especially from the others in this free-agent class.

That seems strange to say. MLB pitchers are throwing harder than ever before. But among the headliners in free agency this offseason, Eovaldi's velocity is at the head of the class. Patrick Corbin's fastball averaged 90.8 mph last season; Dallas Keuchel's averaged 89.3 mph; J.A. Happ's averaged 91.9 mph. All were below league average for starting pitchers, 92.3 mph.

Eovaldi's fastball, meanwhile, averaged 97.1 mph -- third-fastest among regular starters, behind only Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard. He hit 100-plus 10 times, the most of any regular starter. And that doesn't even count the postseason showcase he put on for the Red Sox during their World Series run.

Highest average fastball velocity by starting pitchers in 2018
Minimum 500 4-seamers/2-seamers/sinkers thrown
1. Luis Severino: 97.6 mph
2. Noah Syndergaard: 97.4 mph
3. Nathan Eovaldi: 97.1 mph
4 (tie). Gerrit Cole: 96.5 mph
4 (tie). Tyler Glasnow: 96.5 mph

Plenty of teams need starting pitching and will target rotation upgrades this offseason. But here are five that don't just need any starter -- they need a starter with Eovaldi's elite velocity.

1. Milwaukee Brewers
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 90.8 mph (T-3rd-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 1.9% (3rd-lowest in MLB)
The Brewers didn't let a thin rotation prevent them from getting all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. But now that the season's over, starting pitching should be a chief area to address. In all of 2018, Brewers starters combined to throw 153 fastballs 95 mph or faster, less than 2 percent. (Compare that to teams like the Astros and Mets, whose starting rotations threw nearly half their fastballs 95-plus mph.) Eovaldi threw 680 fastballs 95-plus.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Eovaldi fans Bregman with 101.6-mph heater

Consider the average fastball velocities of some of Milwaukee's starters: Chase Anderson averaged 92.3 mph, Wade Miley averaged 90.7, Freddy Peralta averaged 90.6, Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin averaged 90.1 mph, Zach Davies averaged 89.8 and Brent Suter averaged 86.6. There's far more to good pitching than high velocity, but Eovaldi is both a good pitcher and one who would ideally complement the Brewers' staff.

2. San Francisco Giants
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.2 mph (7th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 0.4% (lowest in MLB)
With the analytically minded Farhan Zaidi taking over baseball operations in San Francisco and looking to build the Giants back up into a contender, Eovaldi would be an attractive option for a lot of reasons beyond pure velocity. But velocity is a big part of the package, and it would give the Giants' rotation something it doesn't have.

The Giants didn't have a single starting pitcher this season with even a league-average fastball velocity. Their hardest-throwing regular starters, Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez, averaged 92.1 mph. Derek Holland sat at 91.5, Dereck Rodriguez at 91.2, Chris Stratton at 91.0, Madison Bumgarner at 90.8, and Ty Blach and Johnny Cueto at 89.7. Perhaps most shockingly, San Francisco's starting rotation as a team threw just 30 fastballs 95 mph or harder all year. That was by far the fewest in MLB -- Eovaldi alone threw more than 20 times as many. 

3. Arizona D-backs
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.0 mph (6th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 4.3% (8th-lowest in MLB)
Corbin may have pitched his last game for Arizona, and there's a chance the D-backs could try to trade Zack Greinke this offseason. Why not replace their low-90s fastballs with Eovaldi's serious heat?

Video: BOS@ATL: Eovaldi hurls fastest strikeout pitch of '18

Corbin's fastball velocity didn't matter so much since he was one of the Majors' heaviest breaking-ball users, racking up an MLB-best 387 swings and misses and 195 strikeouts on that pitch alone. And Greinke's stellar command and craftiness more than made up for his 89.6-mph average fastball velocity. But Eovaldi is a different type of starter, one who could pair excellently with Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker -- two D-backs pitchers who can dial it up.

4. San Diego Padres
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.3 mph (8th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 2.0% (T-4th-lowest in MLB)
The Padres have a lot of young talent in the organization, and that includes pitching prospects. But not many of them will be Major League-ready in 2019. San Diego has been linked to Eovaldi as a possible suitor -- Eovaldi is just 28, so he could help an up-and-coming team now and in the future. From a stuff standpoint, he's just the type of the pitcher the Padres should seek to add to their rotation.

The Padres' staff last season wasn't exactly built on velocity. They had four pitchers who made at least 20 starts -- veterans Clayton Richard and Tyson Ross and rookies Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer. Those four had average fastball velocities of 90.0 mph, 90.7 mph, 90.4 mph and 91.2 mph, respectively. San Diego does have a couple of arms with a little more zip (Bryan Mitchell averaged 94.1 mph, and No. 14 prospect Jacob Nix averaged 92.9), but no one resembling Eovaldi in either production or tools.

5. Oakland A's
Avg. FB velo by team SP: 91.9 mph (11th-lowest in MLB)
Percent of FBs thrown 95+ mph: 11.2% (11th-lowest in MLB)
By the end of the 2018 season, the A's rotation was decimated by injuries. But that didn't stop their surprise surge to the postseason. They used an opener and a slate of relief arms against the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game, but come Opening Day 2019, they'll need starting pitching. A live arm like Eovaldi could be just what they need.

Video: BOS@NYY Gm3: Statcast™ measures Eovaldi's heater

At first glance, the A's starters' velocity doesn't look quite as low as other teams on this list. But their hardest-throwing "starter," averaging 95.9 mph, was Liam Hendriks -- who's really a reliever but pitched as an opener down the stretch (including the AL Wild Card Game). Next was Frankie Montas (95.7 mph), who did start a slate of games in the summer but was in the bullpen by September and barely used. Aside from them, A's starters rarely touched 95 mph, with Edwin Jackson and Kendall Graveman the only ones to do so occasionally. Sean Manaea, for example, averaged 90.4 mph; Mike Fiers averaged 90.3. Eovaldi would bring an injection of electricity that would be perfect for an exciting young team trying to do it again in 2019.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.