Up next in the MWaH/LAAI Top 30 Angels Prospect Countdown a dark horse for the big league rotation, the Angels top pitching prospect, Garrett Richards.
Position: Starting Pitcher Level: Double-A and Majors
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’3″ Weight: 215 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: May 27, 1988
2011 Season Stats (AA): 12-2, 143.0 IP, 3.15 ERA, 123 H, 10 HR, 40 BB, 103 K, 3.68 FIP, .270 BABIP, 1.36 GO/AO
2011 Season Stats (Majors): 0-2, 14.0 IP, 5.79 ERA, 16 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 9 K, 6.95 FIP, .286 BABIP
Fastball – A. Routinely sits above 95 mph with movement, rarely misses off the plate.
Breaking Ball – A+. Throws both a 12/6 curve and slider for strikes as strikeout pitch.
Change up – B. Rarely uses it, but the pitch shows a lot of promise.
Performance – A. Was close to being a Future’s Game participant, is AA all-star.
Projection – A. Looks like he will be an ace someday, unparalleled stuff.
Comp – Floor: A.J. Burnett. Ceiling: Josh Beckett.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date: 2012 (at least permanently)
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: Garrett Richards’ credentials from the 2011 season make the campaign a big success for the youngster. He put up strong numbers for the Arkansas Travelers and was selected to both the mid-season and post-season Texas League All-Star teams. He even got to finish the season in the majors, throwing a total of 14 innings for the Angels over three starts and four relief appearances. It is easy to see why he is so highly valued and why he has a shot a making the team out of spring training this coming season. Across the board, the season is a success for Richards.
It is, however, a qualified success. For starters, his promotion to the bigs was born out of necessity more than merit. The Angels had almost no starting pitching depth and needed Richards to make two spot starts, only he got hurt in the first inning of his second start, so it is hard to make a great assessment of how well adapted he was to the majors. He got knocked around pretty good in his first start and then had some rough relief outings before posting a decent line in the last game of the season against a disinterested Rangers lineup. Overall, he took a lot of lumps (including four homers over 14 innings) but also showed that his electric fastball and sweet slider could sometimes make big league hitters look bad. The best example of this was a relief outing versus Toronto where Richards induced a popout from Jose Bautista and fanned Adam Lind only to come back in the next inning and serve up a meatball for a walk-off homer for Edwin Encarnacion. Richards has the stuff to compete in the majors, but he hasn’t quite put it all together yet.
Perhaps the more concerning red flag comes from his time in Double-A Arkansas. Richards overall numbers are terrific. But when you look at his home-road splits, it gets a little concerning. At home, Richards took full advantage of the pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens park to post a 1.78 ERA and allowed just one home run. On the road though, his ERA ballooned up to 4.70 with him coughing up nine homers in just 67 innings of work. That is just another sign that Richards still isn’t a finished product.
What to Expect in 2012: Richards confuses me a bit. Since he was drafted, we’ve heard all about his four plus pitches: an electric fastball, a put-away slider, a big curve and a quality changeup. But when we got to see Richards in the majors, we saw the fastball, a lot of the slider, a tiny bit of the change and none of the curve. According to Pitch f/x, Garrett didn’t throw the curve once. What gives? Can he not control it? Did he scrap it for some reason? I hate to harp on it, but with Richards never having the changeup as a big part of his repertoire, he seems to be essentially a two-pitch possible reliever now instead of a four-pitch starter. We didn’t see Richards much, so it could have just been a fluke as maybe Mike Butcher told him to keep the curve in his bag so that he wasn’t overthinking things in his first tour in the bigs.
Richards may not have been very good, but he did show enough flashes of why the Angels think he can be special, so Garrett will head to spring training as a contender for the final spot in the Angels rotation. He is a longshot since Jerome Williams seems to have a firm grip on the fifth starter spot, but make no mistake, Richards is next in line if Williams falters in the spring or if any of the other starters go down with an injury at any point during the season. If everything goes according to plan though, Richards will spend the entire season in Triple-A Salt Lake. The most interesting aspect of that assignment will be to see if Richards really does have problems giving up homers like he had in the majors and on the road in Double-A. If any place will expose that flaw, it is Salt Lake. Aside from that Richards just needs to keep working on the craft of pitching, specifically mixing up his pitches as he looked predictable at times in the majors. His slider is great, but he seemed to lean on it a little to often and no pitch is effective if a batter knows it is coming.