5) Garrett Richards, 5/27/88 - RHSP, Advanced Rookie Ball
Ranking in a Nutshell: Along with Mike Trout, Richards is the new darling of the Angels' system due to a strong professional debut and glowing scouting reports that talk up his potential to develop into that rare, front of the rotation starter with four average to above average pitches. In a recent interview, Eddie Bane hinted that Richards could even be considered the best prospect in the system, because "he's really good, folks." On the other hand, his amateur track record with the University of Oklahoma is a giant red flag - he posted a cumulative 6.23 ERA over 125.2 innings with lackluster peripherals. Everywhere he's been, he's yielded over a hit an inning. He showed good to great control in rookie league, but has a lot to prove in full season ball.
Track Record: Mediocre to horrendous as an amateur, but stellar as a pro over 35.1 pro innings. The sample sizes are too small to draw real conclusions, but the two things that stand out in the Pioneer League are his excellent 30 K/4 BB ratio, and an unlucky .359 BABIP allowed, which nevertheless failed to dent his superb 1.53 season ERA. The Angels hoped he would make a September start in Cedar Rapids, but he experienced minor soreness in his throwing arm and the organization shut him down.
Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: Richards has the fastball and the quality offspeed stuff to dream big on, giving him the upside of a front of the rotation starter. The Braves' Tommy Hanson is a good example of a guy who carves up the opposition with four quality offerings that he can throw, with command, in any count.
Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)
As part of their effort to increase the publicity of the draft, the MLB made great footage of Richards available here. Interestingly, you'll see Richards pitching off of his slider to a college hitter, throwing a good one away for a swinging strike, another good one inside that buckles the batter's knees but still tilts in for a strike, and one that misses low. He then freezes the batter with a 95 mph fastball down the pipe for strike three. You don't see it in the video, but he also has a good, mid-70's curveball, and a promising change-up that features plenty of fade.
You can see more footage of Richards pitching at Future Angels, where he ranks number two among Angels prospects.
There's a lot to like about Richards' delivery: he achieves great arm speed seemingly without much effort; his height and three quarters arm slot allow him to get downward plane on the ball; and he appears to repeat the motion well. However, Alex Eisenberg picked up on a "tell" that Richards might flash before delivering a fastball, which could allow hitters to sit on the pitch and potentially explain why he was hit so hard as an amateur. Eisenberg drew on video evidence to show that Richards has a habit of bending down further in his delivery when he gears up for a heater than he does when throwing offspeed pitches. If indeed his spotty amateur record is the result of a simple mechanical issue, then the Halos coaching staff will no doubt correct it. Baseball America suggests that he's advanced enough to potentially jump to AA by the end of this season.
A special thanks to Stephen Smith for making publicly available his footage of Angels' prospects.