The Top 222 Players of 2021: No. 213, James Karinchak

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213. James Karinchak, RHP, Cleveland: The league is replete with really fun relief weapons, but most of them missed this list. Only guys who make an especially strong impact and who present features of extreme interest have pushed their way on, and Karinchak is another example.

It’s nearly impossible to know whether Karinchak’s fastball or curve is coming on a given pitch, because he throws them about equally often. That’s a big problem for hitters, because it’s also nearly impossible to hit either pitch if you begin with divided expectations. The fastball sits 96, and touches 100, with good spin and rising action. The curve snaps downward about a foot and a half, at 83-85 miles per hour. He throws from an insanely high arm slot that keeps the curve from bending laterally and giving it away too soon. 

Plus, have you seen this guy pitch? He’s got a 90s-teen-comedy villain face, and a constant shine of sweat. As he starts his delivery, his knee folds up to his chest, but his arms reach out around it, to full extension. You remember the “can opener” dive into pools, when you were a kid, where you’d pull one knee to your chest and keep the other leg fully extended? Mid-delivery, Karinchak looks like he’s mid-can opener. Then there’s this mad sequence of high-speed twists, and the ball comes downhill to the poor hitter like a splash right in the face.

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