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Prospect of the Day: Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

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Los Angeles Angels prospect Garrett Richards (Photo by Rob Tringali, Getty Images)
Los Angeles Angels prospect Garrett Richards (Photo by Rob Tringali, Getty Images)

Prospect of the Day: Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels pitching prospect Garrett Richards is dominating the Double-A Texas League this year, with a 12-1 record for the Arkansas Travellers. Does his level of talent match the gaudy record, and how quickly can we expect to see him in Anaheim?

Garrett Richards was drafted by the Angels in the supplemental first round in 2009, 42nd overall. He was not an effective pitcher in college, posting a 6.00 ERA his junior year and annoying scouts with erratic secondary pitches and spotty command. However, the Angels liked his arm strength, felt his issues were fixable, and that he might put up better results against wooden bats. Their judgment was confirmed when he posted a 1.53 ERA with a 30/4 K/BB in 35 innings for Orem in the high-offense Pioneer League after signing, showing much more polish than expected.

Sent to Cedar Rapids in the Low-A Midwest League to begin '10, he posted a 3.41 ERA with a 108/34 K/BB in 108 innings with 92 hits allowed. Promoted to the High-A California League in late July, he continued to pitch well with a 3.89 ERA and a 41/9 K/BB in 35 innings for Rancho Cucamonga, with 38 hits allowed.

Richards has spent all of 2011 with Double-A Arkansas, with strong results: a 12-1 record, 3.04 ERA, with a 98/39 K/BB in 136 innings with 111 hits allowed. He's posted a 1.27 GO/AO and allowed eight homers. He's been especially sharp lately, going 7-0, 2.42 in his last 11 starts, with a 58/16 K/BB in 78 innings and 63 hits allowed.

A 6-3, 215 pound, 23 year-old right-hander, Richards works with a 91-94 MPH sinking fastball, topping out at 95-96. His secondary pitches are a slider, curveball, and changeup. All three show promise, but all three were very erratic in college and have gradually improved in pro ball. Texas League reports confirm this steady improvement, but the fastball remains his bread-and-butter. His control is generally quite good, and his command has improved: keep in mind that control (throwing general strikes) and command (hitting your spots within the strike zone) are not the same thing. Some scouts question his mechanics and worry that his delivery places stress on the shoulder, but so far he's been very durable.

Richards doesn't have a lot left to learn in Double-A, and a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake could come at any time. However, a deeper look into his statistics gives some reason for caution. His current home park in Arkansas is very pitcher-friendly, and his home/road splits are pretty sharp right now: he has a 1.65 ERA, a .190 batting average-against, and just one homer allowed in 71 innings at home, but on the road he has a 4.57 ERA, a .258 average-against, and seven homers coughed up in 65 innings. Hitter-friendly Salt Lake and the PCL will require him to make more adjustments.

Nevertheless, I'm optimistic about Richards and I think he can be a solid inning-eating starter. We should see him sometime in 2012.