Full Scouting Report: Angels Prospect Garrett Richards
On the other hand, the same things that baffled scouts about Richards' lack of success in college reared their ugly head against a strong Peoria Chiefs lineup. Here is what I saw from the hard-throwing righty on Tuesday in Peoria:
Richards closely resembles Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar. He's not quite as tall, but has long limbs and room to grow. He has a strong lower half, which he uses well in his delivery, but for the most part he falls under the fast-twitch muscle category. Richards moves well around the mound, and has the look of a plus athlete.
Richards' delivery and his ability to repeat it might end up being what makes or breaks him. The raw stuff is fantastic, which we'll touch on in a moment, but he has a violent arm action, and a lot of moving parts like his glove arm for example, which he flings out in front of his body very aggressively.
In general, though, he has trouble finding a comfortable level of effort to work from. It's very visible when he is looking to amp up on the fastball, and that rough arm action gets even a little bit more violent. His arm action does not have a consistent path and his hand usually ends up somewhere hooked far behind his back pocket before he comes up to his release point. When he's right he gets some excellent extension and is able to drive the ball down into the strike zone. But he has the tendency to overthrow and let his mechanics get away from him, as they did when I saw him on Tuesday night. I love his use of his lower half, however. At his best, working from a high three-quarters delivery, he's able to drop and get a lot of drive off his back leg and get back on top. But, at least on this night, getting the ball down in the zone was a major struggle for him.
You won't find many better pure arms in the minors than Richards. He showed me that he can not only live comfortably in the mid-90s but also reach for the upper-90s when he needs it. Despite his struggles, Richards sat 93-96 mph throughout his outing, touching 97 three times. The fastball showed some nice, late running action down in the zone, but he struggled throughout the outing to get the ball down and to his glove side of the plate. He has to be careful not to overthrow, something he did when he got into trouble in this outing. On a few occasions when he dropped down to 92-94, he showed a better feel for his command.
This is a tremendous raw arm, however, and if he can't figure it out as a starter, he showed he could reach for 96-97 whenever he wanted it, so short outings at the back of the bullpen would be fascinating stuff. Although his arm action looks a little rough and there's some effort in his delivery, a lot of his power comes from a good use of his lower body. What he showed me was a 7 fastball on the 2-8 scouting scale that could play up to an 8 if he were to pitch in relief.
Richards used the curveball somewhat sparingly against the Peoria lineup, but when did throw it, his hook was clearly a plus pitch. He threw it at 74-75 mph with sharp, 12-6 action. He didn't use it often, but he threw it for strikes. If he can do that with any level of consistency he's going to get quite a few jelly legs out of opposing batters. This is currently a 6 pitch on the 2-8 scale, and we'll have to see how his command of this pitch shakes out as he uses it more. I'd have to see him use it more, but this could be a future 7 pitch.
This was Richards' go-to out pitch against the Chiefs, and it is certainly a swing-and-miss offering. At 87-88 mph, it's a true slider with dot-and-drop action. If he can refine his command and consistency with this pitch, it could grade out as a 7 on the 2-8 scale. Coupled with his curveball, he has two secondary pitches he can go to for a swing and a miss.
For a guy with such a good fastball and plus secondary pitches, it's even more impressive that he also has a solid changeup. He has a big differential and good arm speed, throwing it at 81-83 mph. This is an average offering for Richards.
It's cliché to say it's all about command for pitchers, but it really is for Richards. The stuff is as good as you'll find in professional baseball, but he was constantly working from behind in the count, got predictable with the fastball and worked up in the zone. As good as his velocity is, it doesn't matter much when he can't get to his secondary pitches because he's working from behind so often.
The keys for Richards? He needs to find a comfort zone to work from in his delivery and get consistent with it. If he can work around 93-95 mph and reach for 96-97 as a starter, with his secondary offerings he's going to be a difficult challenge for big-league hitters. The command will need to come, however, and he needs to get the ball down in the zone. He has trouble spotting the fastball in general, and may even have better command of his secondary pitches. If he can stay ahead of hitters, his array of secondary pitches could make him highly unpredictable.
There will be questions about whether Richards is better suited for relief given his inconsistent delivery and command. For now, my answer to that question would emphatically be no. This is a guy with four quality pitches and three outstanding ones. You develop guys like this as starters. Relief work is an excellent fall-back plan, but Richards is worth waiting on. If it all clicks, he is a future No. 1 starter.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.