The 2016 Atlanta Braves are a rolling baseball dumpster fire. One thing they do have, however, is somebody you’ve never heard of throwing the fastest fastball in the world – depending on how you figure it.
That’s rookie Mauricio Cabrera uncorking a nearly 104-mph pitch against the Cincinnati Reds on July 18, which in any dimension that didn’t include Aroldis Chapman would be easily be unrivaled heat. Remarkably, even that mind-boggling speed can’t equal Chapman’s 2016 best of 105.1 mph, and six times this season the New York Yankees left-hander has matched or topped Cabrera’s 103.8. BUT … since Cabrera was called up on June 27 nobody, not even Chapman (100.4), has thrown harder on average than Cabrera’s 100.8.
That’s more amazing than you probably realize. When Chapman reached the bigs in 2010, he brought the greatest fastball in the history of baseball. While it’s possible somebody somewhere has thrown harder than 105.1, it’s beyond dispute that there have never been such an outlier in the velocity department. In 2015 alone, Chapman threw the 77 fastest pitches in the major leagues – 77! – making him the Steph Curry of cheddar and prompting mlb.com’s Statcast to create a Chapman filter so people could see if anybody else is throwing hard, too.
Clicking on that link now, however, may make you also demand a Cabrera filter, as the the top 15 and 29 of the top 30 non-Chapman fastballs have already been uncorked by Cabrera in – wait for it – 10 innings of work. Correct. Cabrera has thrown that hard, that often, in a little more than a game. So the Braves, who are comfortably sitting with the worst record in baseball as of Wednesday after swatting away a spirited attempt by the Minnesota Twins to keep pace, have a future star on their hands, right? Well …
Chapman is an all-star who has saved at least 33 games in each of his full big league seasons, with an incredible 1.01 career WHIP fueled by one of the greatest strikeout rates of all time, 586 in 347.1 innings. Cabrera, on the other hand, has managed to not be very good at getting people out despite throwing harder than a hitter’s nervous system can process. That may actually be the most impressive accomplishment of all.
Notwithstanding his superhuman arm, Cabrera was only the 27th-ranked prospect in the Braves’ system entering the season thanks to consistent under-achievement. He struck out far less than a batter per inning in the minors (310 in 356.1 innings) with a pedestrian 4.24 ERA, and it wasn’t a coincidence that pitch in the video up there was a foot outside: Cabrera also averaged a terrible five walks per nine innings despite his fastest fastball.
Cabrera’s 1.80 ERA and 1.10 WHIP so far with the Braves are easily the best of his career, but with three walks and eight hits against only six strikeouts it would be wise to hold off on expecting a lot from the 22-year-old outside of amazing radar-gun readings. Still, those are amazing radar-gun readings, aren’t they?